The man then engaged in a shootout with law enforcement officers before being taken into custody, and he then attempted to take a gun from an officer in a hospital, said Sheriff Grady Judd.
Subsequently, MPs found four dead: a man, woman and infant inside the house, and another woman inside a second house on the property, Judd said. An 11-year-old girl was also shot several times and airlifted to Tampa General Hospital for surgery. Another child, initially missing, was found alive and well, he said.
“This man killed four people this morning, tried to kill our MPs and then gave up,” Judd said. The suspect described himself as “a survivalist” and confessed to being on methamphetamine, he said.
“He came here for a shootout,” Judd said. “We don’t know why.”
The fivefold shooting began on Saturday night when a woman called authorities about a suspicious vehicle and said a man who was parked outside her house told her, “God sent me here to speak with the ‘one of your daughters,’ Judd told reporters on Sunday.
A deputy responded within six minutes and could not find the suspect or the car at the residence, he said.
About nine hours later, at around 4.30 a.m., an assistant three kilometers away heard two rounds of automatic fire. MPs have responded and calls of an active shooting have also started to arrive, the sheriff said.
Upon arrival, MPs discovered a burning truck and heard cracking noises in the front yard.
“We saw an individual fully equipped with a bulletproof vest and seemed ready to engage all of us in an active shooter situation,” said Judd. The suspect immediately ran into the house, he said.
“At that point we heard another volley and a woman screaming and a baby moaning,” Judd said.
A lieutenant tried to enter from the front of the house, but it was barricaded. The lieutenant then went to the back of the house and entered, and the suspect shot the lieutenant, who retaliated and backed out of the house, Judd said.
At this point, things fell silent and the suspect came out with his hands in the air, Judd said. The suspect, who had been shot once, was taken into custody.
While in detention, he told MPs he was a “survivalist”. The term generally refers to a person who is proactively preparing for a post-apocalyptic world.
The suspect was taken to Lakeland Regional Hospital where at one point he jumped up and attempted to grab an officer’s gun, Judd said. He has finally been overpowered and is being treated. Judd said the suspect would be sentenced upon his release.
Judd said there were “at least dozens if not hundreds” of gunfire between the suspect and the MPs.
“It was a difficult situation and it resulted in at least two close combat shootings with the suspect,” he said.