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‘Staring and laughing': Man charged in random shootings that injured five, including Tampa officer

Antonio Cruz Ortiz, 31, is charged with 15 counts including attempted murder of a police officer. His motive remains unclear.

TAMPA — The shooting started on Westshore Boulevard.

In the next 40 minutes Thursday evening, authorities say, Antonio Cruz Ortiz would open fire on more than a dozen people, including a Tampa police officer, at locations across Tampa before he was taken into custody.

Five people were injured in the apparently random shootings, including the officer. Authorities said none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

One man told detectives that Ortiz stared and laughed at him before pointing a gun in his direction and firing a shot.

By Friday morning, Ortiz, 31, was in the county jail facing 15 charges.

“This had to be a scary moment for (witnesses) to see this person driving around either shooting his weapon or pointing it at people‚” Tampa police spokeswoman Jamel Laneé said at a news conference Thursday night. “We definitely wanted to get this person into custody and that’s what our officer was basically trying to do when the suspect opened fire on him.”

Antonio Cruz Ortiz, 31, went on a shooting rampage in Tampa on July 30, wounding at least five people including a police officer, authorities said. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

The string of shootings began about 6:52 p.m., when Tampa police received a 911 call about a man firing from a moving vehicle on Westshore Boulevard near the Interstate 275 overpass, police said. Two people were shot there. Details about their injuries were not available Friday.

A heavily-redacted arrest report released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office picks up at 7:25 p.m. 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.

It was Ortiz, in a 2019 Dodge Durango, the report says.

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

According to the Sheriff’s Office, at least five people were shot at in this area. None was hit.

Moments later, Ortiz pulled up next to a man in a Ford 150 at the intersection of North Dale Mabry and 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 and both men began to make the turn onto Lambright, Ortiz pointed a large gun at the Ford driver and fired a single round, then cocked the gun and fired again, the report says. The Ford driver was not hit but at least one of the truck’s tires was flattened.

Ortiz drove east on Lambright 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, then his back window shattered. The man quickly turned to pull around the car in front of him.

Ortiz kept driving east on Lambright and onto Sligh Avenue. Near 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 shot, then she felt a pain in her ankle and realized she’d been hit, too. She pulled to a stop on Sligh.

Two children in the back of the Honda, ages 4 and 2, were not hit.

Photos released by the Tampa Police Department show bullet holes in the front windshield of a patrol cruiser and its shattered rear window after an officer attempted a traffic stop on Antonio Cruz Ortiz on Thursday. Police say Ortiz opened fire on the officer, injuring him. [ Tampa Police Department ]

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 certain precautions because they are 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, police said. Multiple officers descended on the area to search, and a canine tracked him to a third-floor landing, where he was captured.

After Ortiz was caught, police found several firearms, including a rifle that matched the description the witnesses gave investigators, the Sheriff’s Office report says. Rounds in the rifle matched the model and caliber found at several of the shooting scenes, according to the report.

Authorities say Antonio Cruz Ortiz was driving this Dodge Durango as he randomly shot at more than a dozen people in Tampa on Thursday. Ortiz shot at a Tampa police officer on E Hillsborough Avenue at 43rd Street and then fled on foot, police said. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

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 out of the hospital and home resting Friday, she said.

Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan visited the officer, who has been on the force for 11 months, and said he was in “good spirits.”

Ortiz was charged with 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. He was being held without bail.

More charges are forthcoming, Laneé said.

Records show Ortiz has one prior criminal charge in Hillsborough County, a petty theft case from 2011 that was later dropped. He has no other prior arrests in Florida.

Police tape marks the building in the Park Terrace Apartments where suspect Antonio Cruz Ortiz was arrested Thursday. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

A Tampa Bay Times reporter visited three Tampa addresses associated with Ortiz on Friday. No one answered at two. A man who answered the door at the third address, an apartment in the complex where Ortiz was arrested, said he didn’t know Ortiz.

Reporters tried more than a dozen phone numbers associated with Ortiz and possible family members but did not reach anyone who knows him.

Times staff writers Kathryn Varn and Caitlin Johnston contributed to this report.