Trooper shot, suspect killed after traffic stop in Palatka
Florida Highway Patrol, police searching for second man who ran from car
The Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating an shooting early Saturday morning in downtown Palatka park that injured a trooper and left the gunman who ran from a traffic stop dead.
The FHP says Trooper Lawrence Andrew Litzell, 36, was attempting to pull over car about 12:45 a.m. Saturday near South Second Street and Laurel Street.
According to investigators, when the car finally stopped, two men got out of the car and ran toward the St. Johns River. Litzell pursued the suspects in his vehicle for a short time, but once they reached the water officers say the two men split up and Litzell then got out on foot.
Investigators say Litzell began chasing Samourian Wingo. After a short chase officers say Wingo turned and shot the trooper in the face. Litzell returned fire multiple times, killing Wingo.
Litzell was airlifted to UF Health in Gainesville and is in stable condition.
The second man who ran from the vehicle is still at large. Investigators do not know his identity or have much of a description at this point.
FHP Sgt. Dylan Bryan said Trooper Litzell has been a trooper for 11 years and is an outstanding model for his peers.
"This is something we don't like to hear. When it attacks one of your own, it's tough to hear. We also know there's a task at hand," said Bryan.
FHP says Wingo used a .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun.
A check of his criminal history found Wingo had a long several brushes with the law, mostly in St. Johns County. His first arrest was for battery on a law enforcement officer, possession of a firearm and other charges when he was only 17. The following year, he was arrested on drug and firearms charges. In 2010, he was arrested twice for drug possession during traffic stops. He spend 18 months in prison on the second conviction.
Wingo's family came to the scene as officers investigated. They say that Wingo was a father of two.
"I'm sorry that the police had to kill my grandson," Betty Hodges said. "They didn't have to kill him though. They didn't have to shoot him that many times."
Saturday was Wingo's 24th birthday. Family members said they had a surprise party planned for him on Saturday.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the second suspect is urged to call FHP or Crime Stoppers at 888-277-TIPS.