CITRA, Fla. – The Marion County sheriff is begging community members to treat others with respect after someone sprayed bullets at a deputy and innocent bystanders Sunday morning following a week of tragedy in the area, the sheriff said.
Days after two Florida deputies were gunned down in Gilchrist County and another deputy took down the suspect in a school shooting in Ocala, a Marion County deputy was shot at numerous times while responding to a call at a bar in Citra, the Sheriff's Office said.
According to the Sheriff's Office, deputy Joseph Spratlin was trying to disperse the crowd at the Paradise Bar and Lounge on North U.S. Highway 441 around 2 a.m. Sunday when at least one unknown person shot multiple times at him and other members of the crowd.
Spratlin was forced to take cover behind his patrol vehicle, which was struck by a bullet, and was unable to return fire because he was working to bring bystanders to safety, deputies said.
Sheriff Billy Woods called the crime "heinous" and said he's sick of the violent behavior he's seen recently.
“Enough is enough,” Woods said.
The sheriff is pleading for people to understand the amount of sacrifices law enforcement officers make to protect their communities.
“A law enforcement officer’s worst fear came true in Gilchrist County last week, and I can tell you that all of my people are on edge. The shooting early this morning hits us right here at home and this type of senseless violence has got to stop," Woods said. "Every single day, all of us in law enforcement, whether we wear green, blue or black and tan uniforms, leave our families to serve and protect you, our citizens. I implore you to at least help us protect you from those who commit crimes like this. Whoever committed this crime last night is a danger to us all. Someone needs to do the right thing and turn that person, or persons, in today.”
No one had reported injuries in the shooting as of Sunday afternoon, deputies said.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call the Sheriff's Office at 352-368-3538 or submit tips online at ocalacrimestoppers.com.