At least four people, including an infant in their mother’s arms, were shot dead by a mass shooter who Florida police described as a “survivalist.”
Police said the victims included two women, a man, and the infant, who were killed in two neighboring homes.
Officers raced to a home in Lakeland at around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday morning after shots were heard in a neighborhood close to Lake Gibson High School.
When police arrived at the home, they found a truck on fire and a “popping noise” in the front yard.
At a later press briefing, Polk Sheriff’s Office Sheriff Grady Judd said shortly afterward police found a man “totally outfitted in body armor” who was “ready for battle.”
The suspect then ran into the house and shortly afterward officers heard another volley of gunfire, during which a woman and baby could be heard screaming.
When police closed in on the front door, they found it was barricaded and after entering through the back, they found the suspect who opened fire on the officers.
Judd said: “The suspect shot at our lieutenant. Our lieutenant returned fire and then backed out of the house.
“Responding units then directed gunfire and three deputies were pinned down by gunfire.”
At this point, multiple response units, including a SWAT team and helicopter, were present outside and had surrounded the home.
The suspect then surrendered after being shot once and was later rushed to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center.
Judd continued: “At Lakeland regional, while being treated, he (the suspect) jumped up and tried to grab the Lakeland police officer’s gun and they had a fight with him again in the emergency room.”
His condition is unknown at this time, although police are preparing to charge him.
Once subdued, the suspect was given medication that rendered him unable to fight with the officer. The medical staff then continued to treat him.
Meanwhile, officers positioned outside the house ordered people inside to come out and proceeded to enter the home.
Fearing the home had been “booby-trapped” police sent in a robot before sending in officers.
Inside, police found an 11-year-old girl who was alive despite having been shot multiple times.
Judd said: “She looks our deputies in the eye and says: ‘There’s three more dead people in the house.'”
She was taken to a hospital in Tampa and is currently in surgery. Her condition is unknown as of Sunday morning.
Upon entering the main area of the house, police discovered a man, a woman and an infant, in the mother’s arms, had all been shot to death.
Another woman in the house directly behind was also found dead, having been shot.
Judd continued: “This man killed four people. He tried to kill our deputies and then gave up.”
He later added: “He was driving a vehicle with a Marine Corps logo with a Florida license plate and he described himself as a survivalist. And then he said: ‘I’m taking meth.'”
Survivalists are part of a social movement who prepare for emergencies, such as man-made or natural disasters and typically stockpile supplies in case of prolonged disruption to services.
Police said they had been searching for the whereabouts of another child, who was later found safe and unharmed away from the scene of the shooting.
Judd said police were now working on charges and police were continuing with their investigation.