LAKE WALES (FOX 13) - The Polk County Sheriff's Office believes that the armed suspect who shot at a sheriff's office helicopter during a manhunt after a carjacking may have stolen another vehicle.
The search for the suspect has been concentrated around the Saddlebag Lake Resort in Lake Whales, near Mammoth Grove Rd. and SR 60.
Bartow police said the suspect carjacked a white flatbed truck just after 3 p.m. Thursday. A witness to the carjacking spoke to FOX 13 News, though he wanted to remain anonymous.
The man works for the company whose truck was stolen. He said his coworker called him to tell him the truck had been stolen.
The man got in a car and chased the carjacker, eventually getting out to try to remove the suspect from the truck. That's when the witness says the carjacker pointed a gun at him before speeding off.
Moments before that, the witness said the gunman also tried to elude the workers by ramming the truck they were using to follow the truck thief.
"He threw it in reverse and slammed into us and then we pulled up beside him. I jump out of the truck to open the door and throw him out of the truck and he puts a pistol in my face," the man said.
Deputies with the Polk County Sheriff's Office later caught up with the suspect. He led deputies on a foot chase after abandoning the stolen truck.
Deputies said he fired shots at a PCSO chopper flying overhead and residents were asked to lock their doors and remain on alert while he was on the loose in the area. Audio between the helicopter pilot, Rob Gray, and deputies reveals how tense the search became.
"Truck I stopped in the orange grove. I don't know if he is stuck or he chose to stop."
“He is out. White male, red shirt. Now reaching in his waistband. Eastbound. South bound. He might have shot at me."
"He is carrying something. He is shooting at me."
"I hear it and see muzzle flashes, eastbound in the grove. Shots fired."
Deputy on the ground:
"Shots fired! Shots fired!"
Friday morning, deputies said a diesel fuel truck belonging to McKenna Brothers, Inc. was stolen from an orange grove in the area and they believe this same suspect took it.
The truck is filled with hundreds of pounds of diesel fuel. Deputies released a photo of a truck identical to the one that was stolen and said the number "211" was printed on the hood.
Residents nearby were still being asked to stay alert and protect themselves, while the suspect was on the loose.
"I’m ready. I’m ready. If he comes to my house, I’m ready," resident John Dwyer said. "But I am worried for my family. I don't know what this guy has done. They don't know anything about him.”
Dwyer said he was armed, should he need to be.
Anyone with information about the suspect is urged to dial 911.