1 Haines City officer remains in ICU after police pursuit of armed suspect ended with traffic crash
HAINES CITY, Fla. - One Haines City officer was released from the hospital and another remains in the ICU following a traffic stop that led to a car crash, injuring both men inside their patrol vehicle. The suspect who fled from them was arrested after pointing a rifle at both officers.
The traffic stop occurred Saturday around 5:20 p.m. Officials said that's when 19-year-old Robert Lee Smith III pointed the weapon at Officers Jose Ramirez and Gedrick Vargas, then fled in a black Toyota.
In a news release, police did not provide the reason for the traffic stop.
Two Haines City police officers were injured in a crash while chasing a 19-year-old suspect who they say pointed a rifle at them during a traffic stop. (Courtesy: Haines City Police Department.)
After Smith fled, police said both officers pursued his vehicle, but their patrol car was struck by another vehicle at the intersection of East Johnson Avenue and Powerline Road in Haines City. Both officers were taken to nearby hospitals – one was airlifted.
The driver and passenger of the other car involved in the crash were transported to a hospital with minor injuries.
Officers said Smith continued to flee from the scene. Surrounding law enforcement agencies, including Polk County deputies and Davenport police, assisted with the traffic crash and search for Smith.
Mugshot of Robert Lee Smith III courtesy of the Haines City Police Department.
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Detectives later found Smith at his father's home in Poinciana. When he was searched, deputies found 31.5 grams of cannabis and drug paraphernalia on him. The rifle was not located. Investigators said Smith wouldn't reveal the location of the weapon.
Officer Vargas suffered a dislocated shoulder and broken rib. He has since been released from the hospital.
The crash left Officer Ramirez with a broken arm, facial injuries, and a brain bleed. He underwent surgery Sunday morning and was listed in critical but stable condition. As of Monday, he remains in the ICU.