One person was killed and four people critically wounded in a gun battle between two cars early Sunday morning in unincorporated Winter Haven, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff Grady Judd said the shooting took place shortly after 1 a.m. in the area of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 11th Street Northeast. Four people in a silver Toyota Camry – a 26-year-old male driver, a 20-year-old man in the front passenger seat, and two 17-year-old males in the back – were driving north on Buckeye Loop Road and were being followed by at least two people in an unidentified dark sedan. As the road turned west toward Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the dark sedan pulled up next to the Camry and gunfire was exchanged.
Judd said all of the occupants of the Camry were shot. The 20-year-old died.
“He was shot eight times,” Judd said at a Sunday morning news conference. “The other three in the car are in critical condition.”
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Judd said the driver was shot eight times. One of the 17-year-olds in the back was shot twice, and the other was shot between seven and eight times.
“The deceased had an AR strapped around him. He also had a gun in his waist,” Judd said. He said there was a gun on the floorboard in the back, and the driver also had a gun. “You know, you’ve heard the old saying, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
Shortly after, the dark color car pulled up to Winter Haven Hospital and dropped off a 21-year-old man who had been shot. Then the driver fled, Judd said. The Sheriff’s Office said the 21-year-old is also in critical condition.
Judd said the Sheriff’s Office is not releasing the names because “at this point in time, we don’t know exactly who the victims are and who the suspects are.”
“What we’re looking for today is a dark colored sedan, smaller size sedan, with bullet holes,” Judd said.
Judd said that in addition to the guns that were found in the Camry, deputies found marijuana and a large amount of cash.
Judd said a sheriff’s deputy was working an off-duty security shift at the Cypress Lanes bowling alley on Dundee Road and asked for assistance with an unruly crowd. No shots were fired at the bowling alley, there were no physical fights and no one was arrested, Judd said. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t know whether the shooting stemmed from that incident.
Judd said while the shooting was under investigation, the sheriff’s aviation unit spotted a silver vehicle “slinking around in the area.” Winter Haven police attempted to stop the vehicle and it fled.
Two people jumped out of the vehicle and fled on foot, and police caught them. But while they were arresting those suspects, someone still in the car fled again. Authorities later found the car burned on Avenue G “on the other side of Winter Haven,” Judd said.
Along the path of the pursuit, sheriff’s officials found another handgun. They’re investigating whether this car was part of the first shooting.
“We need the community’s help,” Judd said. “We’re going to solve this, with or without the community. But I want you to know this: That there’s a lot of money available through CrimeStoppers if you give us information, and you don’t even have to give us your name.”
The Sheriff’s Office said people with information can call 800-226 TIPS (800-226-8477), dial **TIPS from a cell phone, visit the website www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com and click on “Submit A Tip,” or download the free “P3tips” app on your smartphone or tablet.