The scene overnight near Hunt Fountain Park on Duff Road in northwest Lakeland where two deputies were wounded and a gunman killed. | Kimberly C. Moore, Jazbablog

Two Polk County deputy sheriffs were shot and are in intensive care following a confrontation early Saturday with a man parked in Hunt Fountain Park in northwest Lakeland after it had closed.

The gunman, who has not been named, was killed by other deputies who returned fire.

Sheriff Grady Judd said at an early morning news conference that the gunman was aligned with the anti-government “Moorish sovereign citizen” movement that emerged in the 1990s and rejects federal, state and local authority.

Lt. Chad Anderson, 46, was shot once with a bullet that went through his arm and into his chest. Anderson has been with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for almost 26 years. Judd said he underwent emergency surgery and is in “critical but stable condition in intensive care.”

Deputy Craig Smith was shot four times in his right arm. He is stable in the intensive care unit, Judd said. Smith, who has been with the department for 12 years, was featured in a PCSO social media post last April for playing basketball with a man who accidentally dialed 911.

PCSO Lieutenant Chad Anderson
PCSO Deputy Craig Smith

State Attorney Brian Haas expressed “deep concern” for the deputies and said that, like all officer-involved shootings in the 10th Circuit, detectives from a multi-agency task force will investigate the incident.

“The goal of this is to give the public a very transparent, thorough investigation so everyone knows what happened and how it happened,” Haas said.

The confrontation

The confrontation began at 12:22 a.m. when a deputy noticed a white car in the park, which closes at 10 p.m. Judd said the Sheriff's Office has been doing extra patrols in the area because of recent vehicle burglaries.

The deputy called for backup after the driver, who appeared to be living out of his car, refused to open his window more than a few inches or get out of the vehicle. Judd said she only had a trainee with her.

Anderson and Smith responded along with another deputy and trainee. Judd said the trainees have completed the law enforcement academy, passed their state exams and are due to be hired officially on Monday.

As a supervisor, Anderson took charge upon his arrival. He and Smith approached the car and began talking with the driver.

The Springfield XD 9MM handgun with which two Polk County deputies were shot. | Polk County Sheriff's Office

“Little did they realize at that moment in time that this was a sovereign citizen. He was Moorish, and Moorish sovereign citizens are known to believe that federal law, state law, local law does not apply to them. They are known to resist law enforcement and there is a history where they shoot police officers,” Judd said. “So they started trying to take our suspect out of the vehicle when he produced the gun and started shooting.”

Judd said the driver had interactions with another law enforcement agency at a county park last month. His identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. He shot the deputies with a Springfield XD 9MM handgun.

“Craig Smith and Chad Anderson were standing at the door close together, and they were shot and went down immediately,” Judd said. “We know that Chad Anderson got off some rounds. We don't believe that Deputy Smith did because he was shot all through the right arm.”

Judd said it is not yet known how many rounds the other deputies at the scene fired, but they “shot a lot” and killed the man “graveyard dead.”

There was a large law enforcement presence along Duff Road overnight, with the road shut down between Green and Park Byrd roads.

Witnesses reported seeing ambulances with a law enforcement escort rushing to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center at about 1:30 a.m. A Lakeland Police patrol car and a PCSO vehicle were both parked at the hospital’s emergency room entrance with lights flashing.

Judd said the details are preliminary and more information will be available in the coming days. But the lone suspect was killed at the scene. The gunman was not a suspect in the burglaries and had no outstanding warrants. If he had cooperated, Judd said, “The most that would have happened to him was a citation for being in a park after hours.”

“He asked for a gunfight. We gave him a gunfight. And he’ll never be in another gunfight again because he’s dead,” Judd said. “He chose that outcome, and we obliged him.”

On Saturday afternoon, Judd said Lt. Anderson had undergone a second surgery.

“They are in rough shape,” Judd told Jazbablog. “Glad they are alive. It was a nasty event.”

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: [email protected]

Cindy Glover moved to Lakeland in 2021 after spending two decades in South Florida. She was a crime reporter, City Hall reporter and chief political writer for newspapers including the Albuquerque Journal and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She spent a year as a community engagement coordinator for the City of Lakeland before joining Jazbablog. Reach her at [email protected] or 561-212-3429.

Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to Jazbablog in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at [email protected] or 863-272-9250.

Leave a comment

Your thoughts on this? (Comments are moderated; first and last name are required.)