Two Polk County Deputies Hospitalized, Suspect Killed in Shootout: Morning Standoff Turns Deadly in Lakeland

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Two deputies in Polk County, Florida, were injured in a shootout with a lone gunman early Saturday morning. The incident unfolded at Hunt Fountain Park, where a deputy discovered a vehicle parked after hours. When the deputy questioned the driver, he refused to cooperate, leading to a call for backup.

Sheriff Grady Judd revealed that the driver, identified as a Moorish Sovereign citizen, resisted commands and opened fire when deputies attempted to remove him from the vehicle. In the exchange of gunfire, Lieutenant Chad Anderson and Deputy Craig Smith were both shot and injured.

The deputies were hospitalized, with Anderson sustaining a gunshot wound to the arm that traveled into his chest, and Smith receiving four gunshot wounds. Despite their injuries, the backup deputies were able to return fire and fatally shoot the suspect.

The shooter’s identity has not been disclosed pending notification of next-of-kin. It is believed that the suspect, who was living out of his car, was not a resident of Polk County. The incident could have been avoided if the suspect had cooperated, as Judd mentioned that deputies were prepared to give him a warning or citation.

Anderson and Smith were both in the intensive care unit as of Saturday morning. The incident sheds light on the dangers law enforcement officers face when confronting individuals who resist commands and engage in violent behavior.

Moorish Sovereign citizens, deemed an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, have a history of challenging law enforcement and holding beliefs that federal, state, and local laws do not apply to them. This tragic event underscores the need for enhanced training and awareness when dealing with individuals who subscribe to such ideologies.

The actions of the deputies in this situation exemplify the bravery and dedication of law enforcement officers in protecting their communities. The aftermath of the shootout serves as a reminder of the risks officers face daily in the line of duty and the importance of de-escalation tactics in potentially volatile situations.