Eleven people were injured in a drive-by shooting in Lakeland, Florida, on Monday afternoon in an attack that police believe is targeted.
Police intially said there were 10 victims, but increased the count to 11 in an update on Tuesday. Two remain in critical condition and the other nine are expected to be released from the hospital on Tuesday. The victims are adult men between 20-35 years old.
Police were called to the scene at 3:43 p.m. and found multiple victims. Cellphone and Ring footage obtained by police show a dark blue four-door Nissan pulling up to the scene and slowing down before the windows roll down, Taylor said. According to police, there were four people inside the car, at least two of whom fired the weapons.
“We have reason to believe that this was a targeted event, that this was not a random act,” the police chief said.
Taylor said they “have a high level of confidence” that they located the vehicle on Tuesday morning. No suspect is in custody yet, but police have “promising leads,” he added.
Just minutes before the shooting broke out on Monday, a school bus had dropped children off in front of a house.
“I was hoping it was firecrackers but I didn’t see any smoke,” one mother told Fox 35 Orlando. “It’s just so surreal; it’s scary. Everybody’s kids just got off the bus. Kids were still walking home right here. So it’s a blessing nobody’s kids got hurt.”
Taylor said it’s unclear why the victims were outside when the shooting happened, but there was “a large quantity” of marijuana at the scene, suggesting a narcotics sale at the time. Police are still investigating if that was related to the shooting.
Taylor said it is too early to determine if the shooting is related to gang activity, but investigators are not ruling it out. Police do not believe there is a threat to the public at the moment.
Less than 40 miles east of Tampa, Lakeland is known for its collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and its many lakes. The police chief said this level of violence doesn’t happen in their city.
“I’ve been here 34 years and I can tell you I have never worked an event where this many people have been shot at one time, ever,” he said.
The shooting occurred as Florida Republicans push to loosen its gun laws even further. Florida currently does not require someone to have a permit to buy or own a gun, but gun owners need a permit to carry the weapon in public.
Championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, legislators are set to pass a bill legalizing concealed carry without a permit.
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Democrat and House minority leader, told WFLA in December that she was “concerned” about the legislation “because I do think it would make our communities less safe.”
Gun violence in the US is a public health crisis, according to the American Public Health Association. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. Based on data from the Gun Violence Archive, at least 3,587 people have died from gun violence in the first month of 2023, and at least 51 mass shootings have taken place already — the highest on record for January in nine years.