NATIONAL NEWS

13-year-old, police officer injured in gun battle in Florida, authorities say

May 11, 2023, 5:21 AM | Updated: 11:50 am

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.

Officer Jamie Smith heard gunshots being fired near a park Wednesday evening and drove up as the shooter was getting back into a vehicle, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday. Smith pursued the vehicle briefly until the 19-year-old driver, the 13-year-old and a 14-year-old passenger jumped out and ran.

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 three times from a handgun, Judd said.

The officer was struck in the left foot and returned fire, but the teen fled, Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor said. Smith called for backup and continued chasing the teen. He saw him hiding in bushes next to the apartment building; the 13-year-old engaged in another round of gunfire and was struck by the officer’s return fire, authorities said.

He was taken to Tampa General Hospital with gunshots to his leg and abdomen, Judd said. He remains in the hospital in police custody.

All three suspects are facing felony charges. The 13-year-old and 14-year-old were on probation after being arrested in January following a car burglary and had a stolen handgun at that time, Judd said.

Judd said authorities are asking the state attorney to charge the 13-year-old as an adult. For now, The Associated Press is not identifying the teen because of his age.

“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.”

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13-year-old, police officer injured in gun battle in Florida, authorities say