Four people are dead including a mother still cradling her now-deceased baby in what a Florida sheriff called a massive gunfight early Sunday with a suspect “ready for battle” and so aggressive he tried to wrestle a gun from police from his hospital gurney after being captured.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the unidentified suspect was dressed in full body armor — including a bulletproof vest — when he was found outside a Lakeland home that had been “booby-trapped.” He did not explain in detail except to say that glass lights were lining the driveway.
After a gunfight with police and deputies — where dozens “if not hundreds of rounds” were exchanged, Judd said, authorities entered the home and found an 11-year-old girl shot multiple times, plus three deceased victims, including a mother still holding her infant. A woman at a neighboring home was also killed.
Authorities have not released the names of the victims or shooter or a motive for the shooting, but the sheriff said they were initially called out for reports of a suspicious vehicle.
A woman encountered “a strange person” roughly nine hours before the shooting who told her, “God sent me here to speak with one of your daughters,” Judd said during a news conference Sunday.
No other details about the woman’s relationship to the shooter or victims were released.
Police were on the scene within six minutes, but Grady said they found no trace of the suspect or vehicle until hours later when a deputy heard popping noises in the distance around 4:30 a.m. and the agency went into active-shooter mode, bringing all state and local law enforcement in the area to the scene.
When they arrived, breakable lights lined the driveway to the home. They saw a truck — believed to be the suspect’s — on fire and heard more gunshots.
The suspect was also there, heavily outfitted in body armor “as if he was ready to engage us all in an active shooter situation,” Judd said, but noting they didn’t see a weapon.