LAKELAND, FL -- On June 29th at approx. 3:05 a.m., the Lakeland Police Department responded to an armed carjacking at Barnett Park, 121 South Lake Avenue.
The vehicle was parked on the south side of the park near the main entrance. The vehicle was occupied by Brandon Ward and his girlfriend, Sheena Carpenter of Winter Haven who was sleeping at the time.
Ward stated that four black males approached the vehicle with two on each side of the car. Ward said the suspects ordered them out of the vehicle at gun point. They were ordered to lay down on the pavement and one of the suspects struck Ward several times with a semi-automatic handgun. Carpenter stated that one of the suspects kicked her causing her to hit her head on the pavement.
Cell phones, a wallet and purse were also taken from the victims. As the suspects drove off, one of them fired a handgun at the victims.
The vehicle that was stolen during the armed carjacking is a 2005 Suzuki Aerio.
At approximately 6:30 a.m., a victim called the Lakeland Police Department after she stated she was carjacked at 740 N. Wabash Avenue around 6:00 am. The victim walked home and then called LPD at which time it was discovered that the carjacking occurred within the Polk County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) jurisdiction. PCSO responded to investigate the carjacking.
At 7:09 a.m., a Lakeland Police Department dispatcher, Addie Gaskins, who just got off-duty was heading home and spotted both of the vehicles stolen in the armed carjacking, heading north on 98 from Memorial Boulevard. Gaskins had knowledge of both the vehicles descriptions and she alerted on-duty police officers. Both of the vehicles briefly pulled into the Racetrac gas station at 2750 N. Rd 98. Gaskins observed that the tags had been switched on the vehicles.
Lakeland police officers arrived as the two stolen vehicles drove south bound on 98 at which time they attempted to stop the 2005 Suzuki Aerio. The Suzuki fled and refused to stop at which the officers initiated a pursuit. The other stolen vehicles evaded officers and PCSO was notified. Officer's pursued the stolen vehicle south bound at which time the driver of the vehicle intentionally rammed the rear of a 2008 Ford Focus numerous times near 3rd Street and North Florida Avenue.
The Ford Focus spun out of control, hit a tree and rolled back into traffic. Ofc. John Mort quickly maneuvered his marked patrol car to avoid a collision with the Ford Focus and hit the rear of the suspects' vehicle. This caused the suspect's vehicle to spin into the path of Officer Greg Hardee.
As the suspects' vehicle was moving, the driver, Brian Demarcus West, jumped from it and he was hit as well as the vehicle by Officer Hardee as he took evasive action to avoid the collision. West was transported to the Lakeland Regional Medical Center (LRMC) where he died of his injuries. The other suspects were transported to LRMC and treated for minor injuries.
Detective are currently interviewing all the suspects as well as working with PCSO and the State Attorney's Office in determining the appropriate charges. Memorial Blvd and North Florida Avenue was closed 6 hours during the investigation.
The driver of the 2008 Ford Focus was not injured during the accident.
Suspect #1, Driver, Deceased – Brian Demarcus West, 24 yrs of age. Auburndale, Florida resident.
Suspect #2 – Juvenile 13 yrs of age. Not charged pending further investigation.
Suspect#3 – Juvenile, 17 yrs of age, documented gang member. Not charged at this time pending further investigation.
Ofc. Greg Hardee has been with the Lakeland Police Department for 20 years. Per department policy, the officer will be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
The investigation is still ongoing.