LAKELAND, Florida -- An exchange of gunfire at a Lakeland park on Tuesday morning left a police officer wounded and a suspect hospitalized.
Sgt. Jeff Gary and Officer Doug Mills, 36, had gone to North Lake Wire Park in reference to a wanted person being there. When the officers approached the suspect, later identified as 66-year-old Tommie Lanier, he allegedly backed up, produced a firearm from under shirt and fired two shots at officer Mills. Mills, a member of the force since 2008, was shot once in the arm. He was approximately 12-15 feet away from Lanier at the time.
Mills and Gary returned fire, hitting Lanier three times. He was taken to the hospital where he is in critical condition. Officer Mills was also taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center for treatment, and has since been released.
Interim Police Chief Larry Giddens says Lanier had a warrant for violating his probation of resisting arrest without violence, but police had no prior indication he would be armed and dangerous.
Chief Giddens admits things could've been a lot worse, as the shooting happened just feet from the public park, and the suspect was heavily armed.
"He had four handguns on him, concealed under his clothing," says Chief Giddens.
"I just heard 'boom boom boom,'" recalls Robert Bond, who lives next to park.
For those who live in the area, they are thankful that Officer Mills -- a husband and father -- is going to be OK, but they say the ongoing violence taking place in the community is something that needs to change.
"We are so tired of the violence we don't know what to do," says resident Diana Ashley.
Police say this suspect has no apparent gang connections, but does have an extensive criminal history. He was arrested in Polk County back in 1995 for battery.
Officer Mills and Sgt. Gary have been place on administrative leave while an internal investigation takes place.