A controversial pipeline that has been targeted by protesters for months, was the target of a gunman with a high-powered rifle Sunday morning.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office says the man was firing at the Sabal Trail pipeline that is still under construction in the 12500th block of Highway 200 in Dunnellon, causing extensive damage.
The man fled, driving into neighboring Citrus County. The suspect was involved in a crash on the side of the road adjacent to the Floral City Park after deputies used stop strips. This is where the suspect engaged the deputies and was subsequently shot and killed according to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.
The suspect has since been identified as 66-year-old James Leroy Marker, who resided in Chokoloskee, Florida.
"We're again very thankful that no one else was injured during this extremely dangerous incident," Sheriff Mike Prendergast said today. "We're giving FDLE time to complete a thorough investigation to determine exactly what happened."
The Sabal Trail Transmission is a pipeline that will transfer over a billion cubic feet of natural gas from Alabama, through Georgia, and into Central Florida. It will stretch over 500 miles, more than half of which is in Florida and through 12 Florida Counties.
Protesters believe that the pipeline will jeopardize the Floridan Aquifer, which is where most of Florida's drinking water comes from as well as damage other sensitive ecological areas. Some compare it to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Just last Wednesday, two protesters staged what was described as a "pipe sit in" by crawling inside the pipe and refusing to come out for several hours.
Despite the protests, the $3.2 billion dollar pipeline is set to be completed by this summer.