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Shots fired in Westfield Brandon parking lot after undercover operation goes awry

An undercover detective arranged to buy guns in a mall parking lot, but the suspects tried to rob him and at least one fired at law enforcement as they fled, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said.
At least one of two suspects fired shots at undercover operatives from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office after fleeing on foot in the Westfield Brandon mall parking lot.
At least one of two suspects fired shots at undercover operatives from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office after fleeing on foot in the Westfield Brandon mall parking lot. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Jan. 25|Updated Jan. 25

At least one of two suspects fired at detectives in a Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday while fleeing on foot after an undercover operation went awry, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

An undercover detective had agreed to meet two people around 4 p.m. to purchase firearms from them, as part of the agency’s efforts to keep guns off the streets, Chief Deputy Donna Lusczynski said during a news briefing Monday evening. The detective arranged to meet with them in an employee parking lot near Macy’s and The Cheesecake Factory.

Chief Deputy Donna Lusczynski briefs media about shots fired in the Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday.
Chief Deputy Donna Lusczynski briefs media about shots fired in the Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday. [ NATALIE WEBER | Times ]

During the transaction, the suspects pointed their guns at the detective and attempted to rob him, Lusczynski said.

Additional undercover detectives who were monitoring the situation moved in, activating the lights and sirens on their vehicles, and the suspects fled on foot while at least one of them fired guns at the detectives, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

No one was injured, Lusczynski said, and the detectives did not fire their guns.

Jordan Gracia, 19, was arrested in the area of the Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday after an undercover detective arranged to buy firearms from Gracia and another suspect, but the suspects instead tried to rob the detective, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Gracia is facing three charges, including armed robbery, dealing in stolen property and felon in possession of a firearm
Jordan Gracia, 19, was arrested in the area of the Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday after an undercover detective arranged to buy firearms from Gracia and another suspect, but the suspects instead tried to rob the detective, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Gracia is facing three charges, including armed robbery, dealing in stolen property and felon in possession of a firearm [ Courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

The Sheriff’s Office arrested one of the suspects, 19-year-old Jordan Gracia, at the scene. He is facing three charges, including armed robbery, dealing in stolen property and felon in possession of a firearm.

Authorities still are searching for the other suspect, who detectives identified Tuesday as Jaycob Riley, 19. Riley faces five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, as well as an armed robbery charge and a felon in possession of a firearm charge. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 813-247-8200.

The Sheriff's Office is seeking information on the location of 19-year-old Jaycob Riley, a suspect in the shooting at a Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday night.
The Sheriff's Office is seeking information on the location of 19-year-old Jaycob Riley, a suspect in the shooting at a Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday night. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

After the incident, Westfield Brandon closed to the public while deputies cleared the scene, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Merissa Lynn said in an email to the Times on Monday night. It reopened Tuesday.

Lusczynski described the decision to conduct the operation in a mall parking lot as “a double-edged sword.”

“We’ve got to make sure that there’s units close enough so if something like this happens tonight, we can be there and move in and protect our officers,” Lusczynski said. “We would love to do it out in an open field in the middle of somewhere, but I fear if we did that, our deputy would be dead.”

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The Sheriff's Office is seeking information on the location of 19-year-old Jaycob Riley, a suspect in the shooting at a Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday night.
The Sheriff's Office is seeking information on the location of 19-year-old Jaycob Riley, a suspect in the shooting at a Westfield Brandon mall parking lot Monday night. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

An earlier story listed incorrect information about the charges Jordan Gracia faces. He is facing three charges, including armed robbery, dealing in stolen property and felon in possession of a firearm. In addition, an earlier version incorrectly stated that authorities said both suspects fired guns at law enforcement as they fled. The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office says “at least one suspect fired a weapon.” This story has been corrected.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

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