A shootout that sent a Lakeland Police officer to the hospital may have started as a case of mistaken identity, investigators said Tuesday.
Officers were approaching a suspect, identified as Tommie Lanier, 66, when he opened fire on them, hitting Officer Doug Mills, a motorcycle cop who has been on the force for five-and-a-half years. Mills was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, treated and released.
Sgt. Jeff Gary, Mills' partner, was not hurt.
"(Mills) is in good spirits," said Interim Chief Larry Giddens. "He's surrounded by family and friends."
Police said Lanier was shot multiple times and is in critical condition. Detectives found four guns on him during their investigation. Lanier underwent surgery midafternoon on Tuesday.
"Obviously somebody armed with four guns had some intention to do something today and I thank God that our officers were able to intervene and stop him," Giddens said.
Investigators told Fox 13 the officers were responding to a report that a wanted man had been spotted near North Lake Wire Park. They've since determined a woman who was driving by mistakenly thought Lanier was her father, who's wanted by the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Police are hoping to find clues in Lanier's apartment to help them figure out why he reacted the way he did; Lanier's neighbors are puzzled.
"I don't know what made him go off like that. Apparently something set him off," said Doug Wright, who lives in the same apartment complex. "Everybody was kind of shocked because Tom didn't bother anybody. He stayed to himself pretty much most of the time."
Neighbors living near the scene of the shooting are thankful no one was killed.
"It's really scary because he's close. He had four guns. You just- you never really know. You don't know what people are capable of," said Kiera Williams, who said the gunshots woke her up. "It was really loud; it was like four or five gunshots- like ‘pow, pow, pow, pow, pow’, and it was right outside the bedroom window."
A Fox 13 crew stopped by Lanier's apartment but no one answered the door.
Several law enforcement agencies have tweeted out encouragements for Mills' family. He is 36.
Both the Citrus County Sheriff's Office and Polk County Sheriff's Office tweeted they were keeping him in their thoughts and prayers.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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