LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — A 13-year-old exchanged gunfire with police during a chase through a residential neighborhood in Florida, wounding one officer and ending up in the hospital after being shot himself, officials said.
One officer was shot in the foot Wednesday evening in Lakeland, between Tampa and Orlando in central Florida, and is expected to be released from a hospital in coming days, police said. No other officers were injured.
Officers were responding to reports of a drive-by shooting at a park. Officer Jamie Smith spotted the suspect’s vehicle and pursued it. When it stopped, the three occupants jumped out and fled, according to Police Chief Sam Taylor.
Smith saw the 13-year-old running down a sidewalk next to an apartment complex, carrying a firearm, Taylor said. The teen went into the complex despite being commanded to stop. As Smith turned a corner, the teen was crouched in wait for him and fired at least one round from a handgun, Taylor said.
The officer was struck in the left foot and returned fire, but the teen fled, the chief said. Smith called for backup and continued chasing the teen. He lost sight of him, but other officers spotted him hiding in bushes. The teen tried to flee and engaged in a gun battle with officers, during which he was shot in the lower extremities and taken to Tampa General Hospital, Taylor said. Police believe he was treated and released.
The same teen had been arrested in January following a car burglary and had a stolen handgun at that time, said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
“He has no regard for life. None. Zero,” said Judd, whose agency is investigating, at a news conference Wednesday night. “He may be 13 years old chronologically, but he’s a hardened criminal willing to shoot it out with cops.”
Authorities are asking prosecutors to charge him as an adult. For now, The Associated Press is not identifying the teen because of his age.
At least one of the other people in the car was in custody late Wednesday.