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Robbery suspect shot after pursuit ends in front of Publix headquarters, authorities say

A Hillsborough sheriff’s deputy was one of three officers who opened fire on Francisco Cabrera, who was wanted in connection to armed robberies in east Hillsborough County, officials said.
Francisco Cabrera, 27, pictured in a Hillsborough County booking photo from September, was shot by law enforcement and arrested on Wednesday after shooting at officers during a pursuit from Plant City to Lakeland, authorities said.
Francisco Cabrera, 27, pictured in a Hillsborough County booking photo from September, was shot by law enforcement and arrested on Wednesday after shooting at officers during a pursuit from Plant City to Lakeland, authorities said. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Jan. 19|Updated Jan. 19

LAKELAND — A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detective was one of three law enforcement officers who opened fire Wednesday on a robbery suspect who shot at them as they tried to apprehend him in Lakeland, authorities said.

Francisco Cabrera, Jr., 27, was shot after he fired on the deputy, a Lakeland police officer and a federal agent from a car on U.S. 92, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a news conference at the scene.

Cabrera was taken into custody after he was shot and was undergoing surgery Wednesday afternoon at the Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, Chronister said. He was listed in stable condition.

Cabrera was a suspect in at least three recent armed robberies and two armed carjackings in east Hillsborough, two at a smoke shop and one at a gas station, Chronister said. The Sheriff’s Office asked for help from a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives task force to locate and apprehend Cabrera “due to his violent and lengthy criminal history and the violent nature of his recent crimes,” Chronister said. A Hillsborough detective is a member of the task force.

Members of the task force were conducting surveillance on Cabrera at the Wendy’s at 1601 W Baker Road in Plant City on Thursday and tried to take him into custody, Chronister said.

Chronister gave the following account of what happened next.

Cabrera drove away, shooting at the task force members as he drove north on Alexander Street. Cabrera fired again as he drove onto the Interstate 4 eastbound entry ramp.

Cabrera headed east on I-4, exited to head south on County Line Road and turned east on U.S. 92, also known in that area as New Tampa Highway. A Lakeland police officer responding to a call for help did a pursuit intervention technique on Cabrera’s car in the 3000 block of New Tampa Highway, directly in front of the Publix headquarters, and helped to box him in.

Cabrera refused orders to show his hands and get out of the car, and fired at the officers.

“He continues to act the same way that he has throughout this pursuit, and he’s going below the dash and coming up and discharging his firearm,” Chronister said.

The Lakeland officer, the Hillsborough deputy and the ATF agent returned fire. Cabrera was shot at least once. As the officers tried to get Cabrera out of the car to render first aid and take him into custody, he continued to be combative, prompting at least one of the officers to use an electroshock weapon to subdue him.

Officials did not immediately release the names of the deputy, officer and agent who opened fire.

Cabrera will be charged with three counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and fleeing to elude capture, among other charges, Chronister said. He has two prior convictions in Hillsborough, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Booking records from an arrest in September show a home address on Messick Avenue in Plant City.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the shooting.

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