Armed carjacking suspect shot by Lakeland officer, police say

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An armed suspect was shot in an officer-involved shooting in Lakeland, police said, and the injuries to both the officer and suspect are considered to be minor.

Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, a victim was sitting in his 2000 Mazda 626 waiting on a friend in the 1300 block of East Lemon Street. Police said the suspect approached him and pointed a handgun at a victim, demanding he exit. The victim complied, and the suspect took off in his vehicle. The suspect was later identified as 28-year-old Terrese Colston, who is from Tampa.

Around 12:43 a.m. Thursday, Lakeland police officer Alex Rethwisch was responding to a separate call at Providence Road and Interstate Drive. During a press conference, Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said that's where Officer Rethwisch recognized a vehicle matching the description from the earlier carjacking. 

The officer turned his patrol car around, and Colston noticed, Chief Giddens said, and began fleeing in the stolen car. He entered into a field with flattened tires, and the car became disabled. 

Chief Giddens said Colston exited the car, and began running through the field on foot. Officer Rethwisch at first followed him in his patrol car, then exited his vehicle to chase after Colston. That's when the suspect pulled out his handgun, firing two shots at Officer Rethwisch. The officer was initially armed with his Taser, but dropped it, grabbed his gun, and returned fire. A bullet struck the suspect's lower left leg.

Colston was taken into custody and transported to a nearby hospital. The officer had minor injuries to his left arm and forehead. Police said it's possible a small piece of shrapnel hit the officer after Colston fired his revolver.

“I think that officers -- when they find themselves in these situations -- there is a bit of luck that comes into it," Chief Giddens explained, "but I also think it has to do with our training and the courage and discipline that these officers have is what protected him. This is a dangerous profession.”

Police said it appears the firearm malfunctioned after Colston fired two shots. The revolver was found with barrel damaged and was inoperable. 

Colston is a convicted felon, meaning he should not have had a firearm in the first place, Giddens said. According to the police department, he has an extensive criminal record, with 13 prior felony charges and 32 misdemeanor charges, including drug possession, burglary and domestic battery.

Officer Rethwisch was placed on paid administrative leave, which is protocol when an officer-involved shooting occurs. He has been with the Lakeland Police Department for three years. 

"In my opinion, it appears preliminary that our policies were followed," Chief Giddens said. "This was a violent confrontation...our officer was lucky. We're thankful he wasn't injured any further."

Charges are pending for Colston.