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Polk officer hurt in shootout

A Polk County Sheriff's Office detective and a man sought for questioning in a murder were wounded in a shootout Monday night.

Detective Brian Rall was hit in his upper right side by a blast from a sawed-off shotgun about 6 p.m., sheriff's officials said.

Rall, a former New York City transit police officer who told co-workers he moved to Polk County to get away from urban violence, was listed in good condition late Monday at Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

It was the second shooting of a Polk County sheriff's deputy in less than a week.

The man, whom sheriff's officials wouldn't identify Monday night until his family had been notified, was shot at least twice by the two detectives during a brief chase. He was taken to Lakeland Regional in stable condition.

Detectives wanted to question him about the murder of Robert E. Lucas, 57, whose body was found Thursday at his mobile home at 805 Davis Ave., about a mile from Monday's shooting.

Police say the man shot Rall as he and another detective approached him outside a home in the 900 block of Plateau Avenue, Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow Jr. said.

"The detective said, "You don't have a gun, do you?' " Crow said. "He said, "The hell I don't,' and pulled a sawed-off shotgun from his waistband."

The man shot Rall once, then ran. Neighbors said they heard at least eight shots.

Sheriff's Maj. Grady Judd said the wounded man "was not a firm suspect" in the murder of Lucas, but detectives wanted to question him. Judd would not reveal why investigators believed they could find the man at a home. Neighbors said they had never seen him before.

Rall and the other detective got to the mobile home just after the man arrived in a blue Honda.

After Rall was shot, the man ran down the street. The detectives and the man exchanged gunfire as he ran toward a vacant lot at Plateau Avenue and Highland Street, Crow said.

Connie Bird, 10, was with her younger brother, Joey, when the man, running on Plateau, dropped to the ground and looked toward them. "He pointed the gun at us and shook it at us, like, "Get out of here,' " she said.

Then the man jumped up and started running again, she said.

Crow said he talked to Rall at the hospital Monday night. "He's conscious and in good spirits and glad that he hit him and was able to stop him at least," Crow said.