Burglary suspects hurt in shooting after driving at deputy in Polk County, Sheriff Judd says

Polk County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A suspect is in critical condition and another is behind bars after they were shot by deputies in Polk County Friday morning.

Sheriff Grady Judd said police were doing a routine patrol in Bowling Green when they caught the men burglarizing a business with a semi-automatic weapon.

The men led police on a chase through Hardee County, and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was called in to assist, Judd said.

James Hillburn Jr., left. Justin Norris, right. (Source: Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Officers closed in on the suspects in the area of State Road 60 and Prairie Industrial Parkway in Mulberry. Judd said the driver turned their lights off to evade them, and instead of driving out to Highway 60, he “spinned around” and drove directly at an officer who was trying to set up stop sticks.

“They fled from us, they evaded arrest, they made conscious choices to drive toward deputies, and ultimately, they got shot,” Judd said.

The driver, James Carlton Hillburn, 27, was shot in the face and grazed by bullets on both legs. He’s in a medically induced coma, and in critical condition.

Judd said police found the men burglarizing a Bowling Green business with a semi-automatic weapon. (Source: Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

The passenger, Justin Alan Norris, 25, was shot in the leg and grazed on both arms. He was treated and released from a local hospital, then booked into the Polk County Jail.

Judd said Hillburn had three warrants out for his arrest, and faced charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (2 counts), robbery, petit theft, battery domestic violence, and failure to appear for battery domestic violence.

Norris had an out-of-county warrant for failure to appear for burglary.

“These are career criminals. These are people that are very dangerous,” said Judd.

The Sheriff says the suspects gave his deputies no choice and they were forced to shoot.

“They didn’t intend to go back to jail. They thought they would outrun the law, but the law won,” said Judd.

The sheriff’s office identified the officers involved as Lieutenant William “Billy” Strickland, 49, a 20-year veteran at the sheriff’s office, Deputy Sheriff Britton “Alex” Watson, 32, who has been with the agency for seven years, and Deputy Sheriff Dylan Harrison, 27, who has worked there for two years.

Judd did not say what charges the men face after the shooting.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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