1 dead, 4 critically injured following 'running gun battle' in Winter Haven, deputies say
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - One person is dead and four others are injured in what the Polk County Sheriff’s Office is calling a "running gun battle" in Winter Haven last night.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, three men and a teenager in a Toyota Camry were driving toward Martin Luther King Boulevard on the outskirts of Winter Haven after leaving a bowling alley when a dark-colored sedan with at least two men inside pulled up. The dark-colored car had been following the Camry. When the vehicles, which were going north on Buckeye Loop turned west onto Martin Luther King Blvd. they began shooting at each other.
Judd said it is unclear at the moment who the suspects are and who the victims are because the Toyota Camry had entry and exit bullet holes.
He said the shooting was witnessed from a distance by friends of the men in the Camry, who saw the car veer off and come to a stop. Judd said a 20-year-old passenger in the car, who was shot eight times, died at the scene. Judd added that this man had an AR strapped around him and had a gun in his waist.
"You've heard the old saying, if you live by the sword, you'll die by the sword. This 20-year-old young man, really a kid, was living with a gun and he died because of a gun," Judd stated.
The other three people in the Camry are in critical condition at area hospitals. The 26-year-old driver was shot eight times, a 17-year-old was shot twice and a 20-year-old was shot between 7-8 times, according to PCSO.
Judd said the dark-colored vehicle involved in the shootout dropped off a 20-year-old at Winter Haven Hospital with gunshot wounds and took off.
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"None of this should happen. Young men aren’t supposed to die and get shot at by other young men," Judd commented. "We are going to investigate this and we are absolutely, unequivocally going to hold the people responsible for this shooting accountable. That's a guarantee."
Shortly after the shooting, the PCSO aviation unit spotted a silver-colored vehicle slinking around the area and deputies on the ground pursued it as it gave chase. Two men jumped from the car and were taken into custody as the vehicle fled the scene. Judd said the car was found burned up about 45 minutes later on the other side of Winter Haven. He added that deputies also found a discarded handgun in the area.
Judd said deputies also located a gun on the backseat floorboard of the Camry and on the driver of the Camry. Deputies also found cash and marijuana in the car.
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"Were they selling drugs? Were they selling drugs at the bowling alley? I get sick of people saying marijuana isn't dangerous. Well, the effects from it, when everybody has a gun and they are shooting at each other- that's pretty dangerous," Judd commented.
Judd went on to say, "We need to know why did this happen? How did this happen? Who all is involved? Are there any other people, innocent people, shot?"
According to PCSO, an off-duty deputy called for back-up at the bowling alley due to an unruly crowd around the time of the shooting. Judd said there were no shots fired at the bowling alley nor was there a physical altercation. However, it is unclear if the men involved in the shootout were involved in the bowling alley situation.
PCSO is asking for the community’s help locating the dark-colored car with bullet holes that was involved in the gunfight. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information in this case.
Judd says it is too early to tell if this is gang-related and charges are pending.