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Police: Man went on shooting sprees across Tampa, Hillsborough County before shooting officer

The officer was released from the hospital on Friday.

TAMPA, Fla. — A Tampa police officer and at least three people were shot Thursday evening.

Detectives say the suspect, Antonio Cruz Ortiz, 31, has been arrested and is facing several charges of attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and shooting at an occupied vehicle. 

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Ortiz went on a shooting spree where at least a dozen people were shot at.

Around 6:52 p.m.Thursday, the Tampa Police Department received a 911 call about a man firing a gun from a moving car on I-275 near West Shore Blvd. 

Then more calls to 911 came in with similar reports in the area of Reo Street and Cypress Street, according to a release.

Just after 7:30 p.m., an officer tried to make a felony stop of the accused shooter while on E. Hillsborough Avenue.

That's when police say Antonio Cruz Ortiz, 31, pulled his car southbound on N. 43rd St, got out of the car, and opened fire on the 24-year-old police officer.

Multiple rounds went through the front windshield and shattered the back windshield of the cruiser, according to police. 

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

The police department said the officer was shot in the arm and also got a few scrapes from the shattered glass in his police cruiser during the incident. He was released from the hospital on Friday.

Witnesses were surprised, and glad to hear the officer made it out safely.

"It happened so fast, but it was enough to see that, and I could not believe my eyes, you could clearly see that the person who was holding the firearm was intentionally firing on this officer," said Carl Soto, who was driving near the officer when the shooting happened. "The way the gentleman was shooting at the officer, while the officer was in the car backing up, I really thought the officer was dead or about to die.”

He was taken to the hospital and is in good spirits per police Chief Brian Dugan.  

Detectives say Ortiz took off on foot after firing at the officer but was taken into custody a short time later at the Park Terrace Apartments.

The officer, who has been with TPD for 11 months, did not return fire, according to detectives.

Two other adults received non-life-threatening injuries at an earlier scene.

The reported shooting scenes do not stop solely within Tampa City limits. Police and deputies say the same man is responsible for shootings across the county Thursday night. 

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office believes the same man is responsible for three reported shootings between 7:28 p.m. and 7:35 p.m. 

The first was a 911 call from a resident in the 6300 block of Tadpole Lane in the Egypt Lake-Leto area who reported seeing shots fired from a car towards children at a nearby park. Responding deputies said they did not locate anyone with injures. 

The second came five minutes later where deputies say two people were injured after being shot at by a moving car at the intersection of W Sligh Ave and N Habana Ave.

The last shooting happened just two minutes later when a man reported to the sheriff's office that he was shot at by someone in another car, flattening his tires. Deputies say the man was uninjured.

“We are thankful that through coordinated efforts with the Tampa Police Department, we were able to locate this dangerous individual who put so many lives at risk by shooting at random,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “This is still a very active investigation, and we are working to determine why this person acted in such a violent manner. The pain he has caused his victims, including a Tampa Police Officer, and his reckless disregard for human life is unacceptable. He will be charged to the fullest extent of the law for his actions.” 

Ortiz appeared in court Saturday morning where a judge ruled he is to be held on no bond until a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday.   

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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