Four people are dead including a mother who was still cradling her now-deceased baby in what Florida sheriff’s deputies are calling a massive gunfight early Sunday with a suspect they said was “ready for battle.”
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the unidentified suspect was dressed in full body armor — including a bulletproof vest — when he was found outside a Lakeland home that had been “booby-trapped.”
After two rounds of gunfire with police and deputies — where dozens “if not hundreds of rounds” were exchanged, Judd said. The suspect exited the house at some point, then retreated back in, only to finally surrender.
The suspect was shot once and left the home to surrender. Inside the home, authorities found an 11-year-old girl who had been shot multiple times.
She told deputies there were three dead people inside, Judd said during a news conference Sunday. He did not release any of the victims’ identities, including that of the alleged gunman.
Deputies sent robots into the home to check for explosives and other traps. When it was clear, they found a mother with an infant in her arms, and another unidentified victim all dead from gunshot wounds. They also found another woman fatally shot in a neighboring home.
Authorities have not released a motive for the shooting, but the sheriff said the suspect encountered a witness roughly nine hours before the shooting and told her, “God sent me here to speak with one of your daughters.”
No other details about the relationship between the shooter and victims were released.
The shooter also told authorities he was on methamphetamines. The suspects vehicle had also been stocked with supplies for a gunfight, authorities said, including bleeding control kits.
“He was a coward,” Grady said. “It’s easy to shoot innocent children and babies and people in the middle of the night when you’ve got the gun and they don’t.”
The shooter was hospitalized and is expected to recover.