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Sheriff to Zephyrhills shooting suspects: 'We will not tolerate this in Pasco County'

ZEPHYRHILLS — A few minutes after 7 a.m. Tuesday, a Zephyrhills police officer saw a speeding driver at Sixth Street and Ninth Avenue.

When the officer tried to pull over the white sedan, the car sped up. There appeared to be two people inside.

Within seconds, someone inside the car started shooting at the Zephyrhills officer's cruiser. The officer, who has been with the agency since 2005, kept up the pursuit.

The gunman kept on shooting at the patrol car, authorities said. Before backup could arrive, a bullet hit the cruiser's left front tire at Morris Bridge Road and State Road 54, about 4.5 miles from where the chase began.

The officer's car stopped. The shooter kept going.

No one had been arrested later Tuesday.

The officer, whose name was not released Tuesday, was not injured in the shooting, said Zephyrhills police Chief David W. Shears.

Capt. Robert McKinney, department spokesman, would not say if the patrol car was hit more than once.

The car carrying the suspects was possibly a Mitsubishi Mirage, authorities said.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco called on the suspects to turn themselves in.

"We will not tolerate this in Pasco County,'' Nocco said during a news conference Tuesday morning.

The chase began inside Zephyrhills city limits, but the Sheriff's Office was assisting the Police Department in the investigation.

Of the suspects, Nocco vowed to "hunt them down.''

He said anyone who knows the suspects and their whereabouts should alert law enforcement.

"Either they come in peacefully or we're going to send in a SWAT team to get them,'' Nocco said. "If you know where they are — please tell them to turn themselves in. If you're a suspect and you're watching this — turn yourself in peacefully. Because once we find out who you are — the next thing you're going to see is our SWAT team kicking in your door and grabbing you.''

Shears said this is a first for the small town.

"Here in Zephyrhills, in my career, this is the first time something like this has happened,'' he said at the same news conference. "And that is something I take very seriously."

McKinney said the officer is married with children.

He's "doing well considering what he's been through," McKinney said. "He's doing very well."

Times staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

>>Fast facts

How to help

Authorities ask anyone with information about the shooting to call the Pasco Sheriff's Office at (727) 844-7711. The toll-free crime tips line is 1-800-706-2488. Information can be left anonymously.

Sheriff to Zephyrhills shooting suspects: 'We will not tolerate this in Pasco County' 08/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 10:46am]
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