Investigators with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office are searching for two men involved in a shooting near a popular Tropical Smoothie Cafe Wednesday night that sent one teen to the hospital with injuries.
The 16-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy were trying to sell marijuana in the cafe’s parking lot, which is located just off the Pasco County line at 23673 State Road 54 in Lutz. The two teens have been cooperating with the investigation, the Sheriff’s Office said. They told investigators the shooting began shortly after two men wearing ski masks walked up to them in the parking lot around 8:45 p.m.
The teens began to drive away and that’s when they said someone began shooting at them while following their vehicle. On Thursday morning, the Sheriff’s Office stopped short of saying if the shooter acted alone, driving a vehicle that followed the teens while continuing to fire shots, or if the shooter is believed to be one of the two masked men.
Bullets continued to fly as the shooter followed the teens through the intersection of State Road 54 and Livingston Road and into Pasco County. One bullet struck the 16-year-old passenger, the Sheriff’s Office said. The boy is expected to recover from his injuries.
After his friend was hit, the 17-year-old driver pulled up to a nearby Crunch Fitness in the 2120 block of Collier Parkway in Land O’ Lakes as the shooter followed. Both the driver and his injured passenger jumped from the vehicle and ran inside the gym, yelling for help, while the assailant continued shooting.
When the teens made it safely inside the gym, the shooter drove away, the Sheriff’s Office said. The teens described the shooter’s car as an older-model, four-door Infiniti sedan — possibly an M45 — that was dark in color. The sedan was described as having significant rear-end damage and bungee cords holding the trunk lid closed.
Anyone with information about this incident can call the Pasco Sheriff’s Crime Tips line at 800-706-2488. Tips also can be submitted anonymously online at PascoSheriff.com/tips.