The Southern Editor
A man was shot and killed by police during a car pursuit which was believed to be connected to the shooting in Lakeland last month.
The chase happened in Winter Haven on Feb. 6 after suspect Alex Greene was under surveillance and then fled from cops by hijacking an elderly lady’s vehicle and proceeded to drive into a vacant building.
Greene was shot six times by police before being brought to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The LPD already had an arrest warrant for Greene concerning possible weapon modification. It was not until after his death that the LPD suspected him of providing the weapons for the shooting.
Once Greene carjacked the vehicle, a captain in the LPD detective bureau attempted to apprehend him. Greene drove straight toward the captain’s car, putting him in fear for his life. This was when he used deadly force to protect himself against the suspect.
The drive-by shooting occurred near Downtown Lakeland on Jan. 30, injuring at least 11 people. A group of people was gathered near North Iowa Avenue and Plum Street when suspects shot inside both sides of the vehicle and fled from the scene.
The vehicle was located later on, with all four suspects being identified. One suspect was a 15-year-old. All other suspects and victims were adults.
Officer Dagon Leach, a Lakeland Police Department officer at Florida Southern College, said the shooting seems connected to narcotics.
“They’re working on specific motives and intent behind that shooting,” Leach said. “So far, it looks like they have potentially linked it to some narcotics activity.”
So far, there have only been weapons charges against all suspects in the shooting. The police are still investigating suspects and trying to get intel from the victims.
“What I would fear is happening is that the victims may not necessarily be cooperating in the investigation,” said Leach.
During his career as a cop in Lakeland for over 14 years, Leach had never seen a shooting of this magnitude before.
“The number of victims in this one is very shocking and very tragic,” Leach said.
Leach used to work in street patrol for over eight years on the north side of Lakeland before becoming a cop on FSC’s campus, where he has been for two years now. His main goal is to keep the students on campus safe.
Leach explains that the recent car driven into the Waller Building on South Florida Ave is not connected to the crash in Winter Haven, even though they happened in similar ways only days apart.
“I actually made it to that scene to make sure no students were involved,” said Leach.
Another crime that happened around the same time as the mass shooting and the car chase was a shooting near campus. A person had been shot near the locations of the other crimes. No students were involved.
Leach said students must know what areas are more dangerous, watch for anything that does not feel right, and call the safety office or 911 if ever unsafe.
The LPD is making strides toward making Lakeland a safer community and FSC a safe campus.
“We work together to keep the community safe,” said Sheriff Grady Judd in a press release.
Police officers have conducted enforcement in and around campus property. Along with the LPD officers on campus, safety officers are on duty. The school recently increased safety by adding a floating officer and a police sergeant. There has been discussion that this line of protection will grow more.
State and federal task forces are being developed to prevent shootings in Lakeland, and neighborhood officers are to bridge the gap in the rougher areas. This proactive approach is to help the city see cops out in their communities while things are going well and to help stop crime before it happens.
“We started a gang investigative task force last year because we saw an uptick in gang-related shootings and drive-by shootings,” said Judd.
Leach said that something that the safety team at FSC is considering providing as a resource is an Instagram to alert students of anything to be aware of inside and outside of campus. Between that and the new student safety advisory board addition, the school is taking action to keep students safe.