POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Three Polk County deputies fired at two men inside a vehicle that sped toward them while they were assisting another agency early Friday, according to the Polk County sheriff.
Sheriff Grady Judd said deputies were called in to assist the Bowling Green police officers who were pursuing suspects in an armed burglary just after midnight.
The sheriff said officers were following the suspects, identified as 27-year-old James Carlton Hilburn Jr. and 25-year-old Justin Norris, when they called for back up from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Judd said the suspects drove into the area of State Road 60 West and Prairie Industrial Parkway and turned the vehicle’s lights off.
“My deputies were once again for the second or third time attempting to set up stop sticks to stop our suspects,” Judd said.
As the vehicle was attempting to flee the area, Judd said the driver, identified as Hilburn, turned and drove toward Lt. William Strickland.
“He’s already driven through here one time. He knows there’s no way out. So why does he drive at our deputy? We can only surmise to kill the lieutenant and the other two deputies,” he said.
The deputies began shooting at the vehicle, striking Hilburn in the head and hitting Norris, who was the passenger, in the legs, according to the sheriff. Deputies said the two men were taken to a local hospital. Norris was treated, released and booked into the Polk County Jail, Judd said, while Hilburn remains in critical but stable condition.
Judd said Hilburn had six outstanding charges on three warrants and Norris had a warrant for failure to appear.
No law enforcement officers were injured, according to the sheriff’s office.