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Number of victims in Lakeland shooting rises to 11, shooters’ car found, police say

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered to anyone with information that leads to the identification and arrest of the four suspects.
 
Lakeland police Chief Sam Taylor told reporters Tuesday his investigators have now identified 11 people who were injured in a drive-by shooting Monday afternoon in Lakeland.
Lakeland police Chief Sam Taylor told reporters Tuesday his investigators have now identified 11 people who were injured in a drive-by shooting Monday afternoon in Lakeland.
Published Jan. 31, 2023|Updated Jan. 31, 2023

A day after 11 people were shot in the area just east of Massachusetts Avenue in midtown Lakeland, the city’s police Chief Sammy Taylor provided several updates to the public about the incident Tuesday morning, including updating the number of injured from 10 to 11.

The shooting, which took place at 3:43 p.m. near Iowa Avenue and Plum Street, ended with three victims found on the scene. Witnesses told police seven more had been rushed to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center via private vehicles. Another victim arrived at the hospital later, Taylor said.

All the victims were adult males between the ages of 20 and 35. Two remained in critical condition on Tuesday. Taylor said one underwent surgery Monday night and the other was flown to Tampa General Hospital for treatment.

Taylor said all of the victims except the two in critical condition were expected to be released from the hospital later Tuesday.

The others suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the chief said.

As promised Monday, Lakeland police released a Ring doorbell security video from a neighboring home on Tuesday that showed parts of the shooting. The main part was redacted.

Taylor said the victims were lining Iowa Avenue, and the suspects, who appeared to be wearing masks or face coverings, were riding in a dark blue, four-door Nissan sedan with dark tinted windows.

As the car rolled by, the chief said shooters fired from all four windows. Then the car, with a paper temporary tag, sped off to the north and fled east on Memorial Boulevard. A Ring doorbell camera captured the shooting, he said, and also captured the bus dropping off children a minute before the chaos.

Taylor said at least four people were in the vehicle, with at least two shooting. He said a car was found in a west Lakeland neighborhood Tuesday morning, and police “have a high level of confidence” that it’s the car used in the attack.

Taylor wouldn’t offer more details on the location of the car but said an officer drove by and spotted it.

Lakeland police say they found this vehicle on the west side of the city early Tuesday and "have a high level of confidence" it is the car that was used in a drive-by shooting that wounded 11 people Monday afternoon.
Lakeland police say they found this vehicle on the west side of the city early Tuesday and "have a high level of confidence" it is the car that was used in a drive-by shooting that wounded 11 people Monday afternoon. [ Photo provided / Lakeland Police Department, via The Ledger ]

But Peterson Jean of P&B Towing in Lakeland said he was contacted by a man he does work off of Bird Street in west Lakeland on Monday night, asking him to come to pick up a car. He said he declined because it was too late. But the acquaintance called again at 6:30 a.m. and asked to have the car towed to an auto-body shop on U.S. 92. When Jean showed up and loaded the car on this truck about 9 a.m., he said a man was video recording his truck and the car.

Jean said the man told him he was working with the city on an investigation. That’s when Jean learned the car might be connected to the shooting the day before, he said, and he towed it to Lakeland police headquarters.

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Jean, who was hanging around the front of the police station after Tuesday’s press conference, said he was waiting to get his phone back. He said investigators were going through it for the texts and phone calls he received about the car.

In the news conference, the chief said Lakeland police received a large number of tips, many of which he said were promising.

“We do have suspects,” Taylor said. “We have people we’re very interested in. We don’t have our hands on them.”

“We have reason to believe this was a targeted event, that it was not a random act,” Taylor said Monday. “We did locate a quantity of marijuana at the scene, which would indicate that, obviously, there were some narcotics sales or sales of marijuana going on there at the time. Whether that’s significant or related to this, that’s unknown right now.”

Bullet holes are shown in a window across the street from a shooting location Tuesday in Lakeland. Police say several people were shot and wounded during a drive-by shooting Monday in a neighborhood located in the central Florida city.
Bullet holes are shown in a window across the street from a shooting location Tuesday in Lakeland. Police say several people were shot and wounded during a drive-by shooting Monday in a neighborhood located in the central Florida city. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]

Taylor said no weapons were found at the scene, but weapons were found in the cars of some of the victims who were taken to the hospital.

The chief said several agencies had reached out to the department to offer assistance last night, including the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Attorney, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Homeland Security. He said Lakeland would take them up on some of their help, “particularly as it comes to the lab processing and the processing of some of the evidence we believe to be in the vehicle.”

The chief again addressed the “challenged” neighborhood, saying there are a lot of good people in the area, and the department has tried to “remove the criminal element” as much as possible.

“We’re not there 24 hours a day. I don’t have an officer that’s posted there at all hours of the day,” Taylor said. “We do the best we can with what we have, and we certainly have put quite a few people in jail from that area ... trying to remove the criminal element. But we’re not there all the time. About as quick as we leave ... they go back to selling their wares.”

A cyclist stops to look at the scene of a shooting, Tuesday in Lakeland. Police say 11 people were shot and wounded during a drive-by shooting in the neighborhood Monday.
A cyclist stops to look at the scene of a shooting, Tuesday in Lakeland. Police say 11 people were shot and wounded during a drive-by shooting in the neighborhood Monday. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]

Reward offered for information related to Lakeland shooting

Late Monday night, the Police Department said a reward of up to $5,000 was being offered to anyone with information that leads to the identification and arrest of the suspects. Taylor said Tuesday the reward money is still available.

To remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward, contact Heartland Crime Stoppers Florida:

  • Call 1-800-226 TIPS (8477).
  • From your cellphone, dial **TIPS.
  • Or visit the website www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com and click on “Submit A Tip.”
  • Or download the free “P3tips” app on your smartphone or tablet.

Tipsters will always remain anonymous when sending a tip through Crime Stoppers.