Elderly victim shot during robbery by three suspects, police say

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Police say they are searching for three men who attacked, shot and robbed a 69-year-old man.

Just before 5:30 a.m. Monday, a shooting occurred in the 1900 block of South Floral Avenue across from the Polk County School Board main offices, according to Bartow Police. When officers responded, they found the 69-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the leg, and severely beaten.

Preliminary information shows the victim regularly takes a morning walk with his 88-year-old friend. A white vehicle parked in the grass just east of Floral Avenue as they were walking on the sidewalk, police say.

Three male suspects, one armed with a gun, exited and demanded the victim to hand over what he was carrying. The suspects began kicking and beating the victim before shooting him once in the leg.

The suspects fled in their vehicle with the victim’s gun and cell phone, according to Bartow police.

The suspects were described as black males between the ages of 20 and 30. The vehicle driven was described as a newer model white vehicle with possibly four doors.

The woman is shaken up, but luckily, wasn't hurt. The man is in the hospital, lucky to be alive. We've chosen not to use their names.

Seven years ago, the 88-year-old woman found a friend and daily walking buddy in the now-69-year-old man.

"We've walked when it's freezing, we've walked some when it's sprinkling," she said.

But Monday morning's footsteps are some they'd rather not retrace.

"I've been through a lot of things in my life but, not that," she said.  The woman recalled strolling in the darkness of the morning and noticing a vehicle stopping on a road, a little longer than most normally would.

Seconds later, she said the vehicle pulled up beside them and three men jumped out, one of them with a gun.   "And, they said give me what you got, give me what you got, or I'm gonna shoot you," she said.

Next, Detective Jason Griffith, said the male victim attempted to distract the suspects. "He has a flashlight on his key chain," Griffith said. "He starts flashing it in their eyes trying to distract them and he begins backing up. At that point, the male victim falls to the ground, trips, and the male suspects then begin kicking him in the face and body."

"He fell backwards, tripped and then, they jumped on him and they just beat him terribly," the woman said. "And then, they looked at me and said what you got? I said, I've got nothing but my walking cane. And they just left me alone."

In the struggle, one of the suspects shot the man in the thigh. "I just froze. I didn't know what to do," the woman said.   Police say the man's injuries went far beyond the gunshot wound. "He had some facial lacerations and fractures in his face bones," Griffith said. "He sustained two fractured ribs  and of course, the gunshot wound."

His walking partner knows it's could've been so much worse. "I'm just so thankful they didn't kill him," she said.

She'll be waiting for him on the sidewalk once he fully recovers. "We'll be walking again," said said, "it'll just be later."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Bartow Police Department at 863-534-5042 or report anonymously by contacting Heartland Crime stoppers at 1-800-226-8477.