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Shots fired at Sabal Trail Pipeline site lead to suspect's death in Citrus County

Citrus County deputies stand at the scene near Floral Park in Floral City where a suspect who allegedly fired a high-powered rifle at the Sabal pipeline was fatally shot after a chase.
Citrus County deputies stand at the scene near Floral Park in Floral City where a suspect who allegedly fired a high-powered rifle at the Sabal pipeline was fatally shot after a chase.
Published Feb. 27, 2017

FLORAL CITY — Citrus County sheriff's deputies fatally shot a man who reportedly had been firing a high-powered rifle Sunday morning at construction equipment for the Sabal Trail Pipeline in Marion County.

The man's name was not released pending notification of family members. No deputies were injured.

The shooting occurred on U.S. 41 south of Floral Park Drive in Floral City after a chase that began in northern Citrus County. The chase started after reports of shots being fired around 9 a.m. Sunday at the pipeline construction site along State Road 200 in Marion County.

The $3.2 billion, 515-mile pipeline will transport natural gas from Alabama, Georgia and parts of Florida.

A spokeswoman for Spectra Energy, which is building the pipeline, said in an email to the Ocala Star-Banner that no Sabal Trail employees were working at the time of the incident.

"Our top priority is for the safety of the community and our employees," Andrea Grover said in the email. "We are cooperating with law enforcement regarding the data collection of damage to the pipe and equipment."

Protesters have raised concerns about the pipeline's potential to leak hazardous chemicals into wetlands and other waters it crosses under.

Two protesters recently wedged themselves into a section of the pipe in North Florida.

The man and woman were eventually removed Wednesday afternoon from the 3-foot-wide pipe after Marion County Fire Rescue responded.

One of the protesters, Carrie Ford, sent a video while lying inside the pipe saying she wanted to spread the word about the pipeline.

The motive for Sunday's shooting was unclear.

Citrus County deputies and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper chased the suspect, who crashed south of Floral Park Drive.

He waved his gun and was subsequently shot and killed, the Citrus Sheriff's Office said.

The officers involved will be placed on administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates.

"We know that the suspect was armed and extremely dangerous, and pending the examination of the evidence at the scene, we will be able to determine what other weapons he had in his possession at the time of the shooting,'' said Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast.

"Fortunately, none of our Citrus County deputies, Marion County deputies or Florida Highway Patrol troopers were injured as a result of this crime."

Officials with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the pipeline after saying the project's harm to the environment was properly minimized.

The pipeline is expected to be in service by this summer. It's expected to bring about a billion cubic feet of natural gas to the state every day and will branch into Citrus and Martin counties for existing power plants.

Information from the Ocala Star-Banner and the Associated Press was used in this report.