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Tampa man accused of wounding officer during shooting rampage appears in court

Antonio Cruz Ortiz faces 15 charges, including five counts of attempted murder. A judge ordered that he be held without bail.

TAMPA — A man accused of shooting at people while driving all over the city on Thursday night — wounding five, including a police officer — made his first court appearance on Saturday morning.

Antonio Cruz Ortiz, 31, appeared via video in a small courtroom in the Hillsborough County Courthouse Annex building. Through a Spanish interpreter, Hillsborough County Judge Joelle Ann Ober ordered that Ortiz continue to be held without bail in the county jail until an Aug. 5 hearing.

Prosecutors say they plan to argue at that hearing that he should held without bail until his trial. None of the wounded suffered life-threatening injuries, authorities say.

Ortiz faces charges of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer with a firearm; four counts of attempted second-degree murder; seven counts of aggravated assault with a firearm; and three counts of shooting at an occupied vehicle.

More charges are likely to come, Tampa police said.

Ortiz said nothing during the hearing. He was represented by an assistant public defender who argued that bail should be set.

Related: ‘Staring and laughing': Man charged in random shootings that injured five, including Tampa officer
These Tampa Police Department photos show the bullet holes that penetrated the front windshield of a police cruiser, left, and shattered the back window, right. A gunman opened fire on an officer who tried to pull him over during a July 30 shooting rampage. The officer was wounded but has since been released from the hospital. [ Tampa Police Department ]

The Tampa man’s shooting rampage started shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday near Westshore Boulevard and the Interstate 275 overpass, police said. Two people were shot there.

By 7:25 p.m. he was in the Egypt Lake-Leto area, when witnesses said a man in a red SUV sped into a parking lot near the intersection of Fountain Mist Drive and Tadpole Lane, in the Coopers Pond Apartments, according to a heavily redacted arrest report. It was Ortiz, in a 2019 Dodge Durango, police said.

Witnesses told investigators that Ortiz got out and started yelling, then reached into his SUV, pulled out a semi-automatic rifle and fired one shot, according to the report. He then got back into his SUV and drove away. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office also reported that juveniles gathered at a park on Fountain Mist Drive were shot at by a passing motorist.

He targeted at least five people, according to the Sheriff’s Office, but hit none.

Moments later, Ortiz pulled up next to a man in a Ford F-150 pick-up truck at the intersection of N Dale Mabry Highway and W Lambright Street. The man in the Ford told detectives later that Oritz “kept staring at him and laughing,” the report says.

When the light turned green, both men began to make the turn onto W Lambright Street. Ortiz fired two rounds at the Ford driver, the report says. The driver was not hit but at least one of the truck’s tires was flattened.

Ortiz drove east on W Lambright Street for about a half mile, where a man in a black Cadillac Escalade was stopped at the intersection with Himes Avenue. The Cadillac driver told investigators he heard multiple gunshots and his back window shattered.

Ortiz kept driving east on Lambright and onto W Sligh Avenue. Near N Habana Avenue, he pulled next to a Honda Odyssey. The woman driving the Honda told detectives later that Ortiz started yelling at them, then pulled slightly ahead and fired three rounds at them, the arrest report says.

The woman’s son told her he was wounded, then she felt a pain in her ankle and realized she’d been wounded, too. She pulled to a stop on W Sligh Avenue. Two children in the back of the Honda, ages 4 and 2, were not hit.

Related: Suspect identified in shooting rampage that injures several, including Tampa police officer
The vehicle of a Tampa Police officer who was wounded when a gunman opened fire on his police cruiser on July 30. The officer was one of five people wounded in a shooting rampage that took place across the city, authorities said. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

About 7:35 p.m., a Tampa police officer spotted a vehicle matching the callers’ description headed east on E Hillsborough Avenue. The officer attempted what law enforcement calls a “felony traffic stop,” which is when officers take precautions while pulling over someone who may be armed or dangerous.

Ortiz turned onto N 43rd Street, police said, then jumped out, brandishing a weapon. He started shooting at the 24-year-old officer, police said, as the officer ducked and backed his vehicle up.

Several rounds penetrated the front windshield and shattered the back windshield as the vehicle drove in reverse. The officer did not return fire.

Ortiz then ran to the nearby Park Terrace Apartments at 4121 Royal Banyan Dr., police said. Multiple officers surrounded the area and a canine led them to him to the third-floor landing, where he was taken into custody.

Afterward, police found several firearms, including a rifle that matched witnesses’ descriptions, the report says. Rounds still loaded into the rifle matched the model and caliber of several shell casings found at the shooting scenes, according to the report.

The injured officer was taken to Tampa General Hospital. Laneé said it was unclear Friday if he was struck by a bullet or just glass fragments. Laneé said the department will likely release his name next week. He was released from the hospital on Friday and was resting at home.

A Tampa Police officer was wounded after a suspect who had been randomly shooting people around Tampa opened fire on him while attempting a traffic stop on July 30 in Tampa. The suspect fled and was later tracked by a police canine and apprehended. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

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