A gunman wearing body armor, who described himself to authorities as a ‘survivalist,’ shot and killed three adults and a baby and wounded an 11-year-old girl while high on methamphetamines.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the suspect, who is now in custody but whose name has not yet been made public, was at the scene of the shooting in North Lakeland, Florida nine hours before he opened fire, and told a woman: ‘God sent me here to speak to one of your daughters.’
The next morning, Judd said, officers responded to calls of an active shooter in the area and found the suspect in full body armor, but did not immediately recognize him as the shooter when he went back into the house near Lake Gibson High School.
They soon heard more gunshots go off, a woman scream and a baby whimper.
At that point, one of the lieutenants went into the house and a shootout took place, before the suspect came out with his hands raised.
Officials later found an 11-year-old girl with multiple gunshot wounds, who told deputies that three other people were dead inside the house. There, they found a man, a woman, and an infant all fatally shot to death.
Another woman was found dead inside another house nearby.
A suspect has surrendered himself to authorities, Judd said, and is being treated for a gunshot wound at a local hospital, where he once again tried to attack police officers.
Charges against him are pending.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced on Sunday that three adults and a baby were fatally shot in two homes north of Lakeland, Florida early in the morning
He said they now have a suspect in custody but are still investigating the incident
At a news conference on Sunday morning, Sheriff Judd said his office first received a call at around 7:30 Saturday night of a suspicious car parked on the side of the road north of Lakeland, Florida.
By the time officials arrived on the scene six minutes later, the car and the suspect were no longer there, but a woman told a deputy who responded to the call that the driver told her: ‘God sent me here to speak to one of your daughters.’
Officials spent the next 20 minutes scouring the area for the vehicle, Judd said, but did not find him.
About nine hours later, though, at around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, a lieutenant responding to another call about two minutes away heard two volleys of automatic gunfire coming from the area, and notified deputies.
Within a few seconds, Judd said, the sheriff’s office started to also get some phone calls about an active shooter.
When sheriff’s deputies and officials from the Lakeland Police Department arrived on the scene, they saw a truck on fire and heard a popping noise coming from the front yard of the house they responded to the night before.
They then noticed a man outfitted in body armor who, Judd said, ‘looked like he was ready to engage us all in an active shooter situation, but we didn’t see a firearm,’ and he went back inside the house.
Judd noted that it is not unusual to see someone wearing camouflage in the highly-rural area, and they ‘didn’t know who he was.’
But soon, they heard another round of gunshots, a woman scream and a baby whimper.
The shooting occurred at around 4:30 Sunday morning in a residential area
It came about nine hours after officers responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle
An officer tried to get into the front of the house, Judd said, but it was barricaded. He then made his way to the back of the house, gained entrance and was immediately shot at by the suspect. He fired back before retreating, and other officers responded with gunfire to free three deputies who were pinned down in the shootout.
No officers were injured, according to WFLA, and Judd said, dozens if not hundreds of rounds were fired in the shootout.
Soon though, Judd said, everything went silent, and a helicopter saw a suspect coming out with his hands raised.
Police shot at him one time, handcuffed him and brought him to Lakeland Regional Hospital for treatment.
While there, Judd said, the suspect – whose name has not yet been released – jumped up and tried to grab one of the Lakeland Police Officers guns, and they had to fight with him once again in the emergency room before subduing him.
Meanwhile, Judd said, officers on the scene found an 11-year-old girl shot multiple times, whom they treated. She told the officers there were three more dead people in the house.
The officers feared there would be booby traps, though, and sent robots into the house first to ensure there were no explosive devices.
When they were given the all-clear, the officers entered the house and found a man, a woman and an infant in the woman’s arms all shot to death.
They then went to the house directly behind it, and found another woman fatally shot.
‘This man killed four people this morning, tried to kill our deputy and then gave up,’ Judd said.
The 11-year-old girl, though, he said, is alive and doing well. She was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital for surgery.
Another 10-year-old who was connected to the scene was found alive and well, after spending the night away from the house.
When officers arrived on the scene, Judd said, they saw a truck on fire
Gunshots are seen in the window of the North Lakeland home where the shooting occurred
A backdoor, which a deputy used to gain entrance into the home, was completely shattered
There were also bullet holes on the side of the house
Officers do not believe the suspect was from the area, and are trying to determine a motive.
He said it is unclear at this time whether the suspect knew the victims.
But, Judd said, the suspect made statements to officials that he is a survivalist and was taking methamphetamines.
His truck had a Marine Corps license plate, and was equipped with a first aid kit and bandages to stop some bleeding.
He will be booked in county jail after he is released from the hospital.
‘It would’ve been nice if he came out with a firearm,’ Judd said. ‘If he’d given us the opportunity, we’d have shot him up a lot, but he didn’t because he was a coward.
‘You see, it’s easy to shoot innocent children and babies and people in the middle of the night when you’ve got the gun and they don’t,’ he said, ‘but he was not much of a man.’
Judd concluded the news conference Sunday morning by saying: ‘Crazy people with guns are dangerous – good people with guns keep crazy people with guns at bay.
‘Our deputies and police officers were the good people with guns tonight.’
Judd is expected to provide another update at around 2 p.m.