A drive-by shooting Thursday evening in rush-hour traffic on busy Kathleen Road left an 18-year-old in critical condition and Lakeland Police searching for the gunman.

It happened near Pear Street just before 6 p.m. on one of the busiest north-south thoroughfares in Lakeland — and across the railroad tracks from Bonnet Springs Park.

A witness told police they saw a male with a handgun hanging out of a rear window of a white sedan, shooting at a white Ford Focus. After the shooting, the Focus rushed to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center’s emergency room.

The site of a drive-by shooting on Aug. 31, 2023, on Kathleen Road.

Detectives were called to the hospital to investigate and learned there were three people in the Focus when it was fired upon: 13-, 16- and 18-year-old males. The 18-year-old suffered a gunshot wound to the head and remains in critical but stable condition at LRH.

Witnesses posted on social media that they saw the “shot up” Focus abandoned in the ER’s sally port with its doors open, shoes on the ground and Lakeland Police officers and patrol cars surrounding the ER.

Kathleen Road was closed for hours as detectives processed the scene and gathered evidence.

Increasing gun violence

This is the second rush-hour, teen-involved shooting in Lakeland in four months. There have also been four additional shootings, including two murders, since January, with two involving drive-by gunfire.

It is reminiscent of 2014 violence that nibbled away at the usually peaceful atmosphere of Lakeland. The Lakeland City Commission created a gang task force to combat the problem and saw violent incidences drop. So much so that they changed the group to a Community Engagement Task Force a few years later.

But gang and drug activity has been on the upswing again.

Jan. 30 — 11 people shot, one suspect killed, five arrests

Eleven men were shot along Iowa Avenue, just south of Memorial Boulevard on Jan. 30 at 3:43 p.m. — moments after a school bus let off about half a dozen children.

The scene of Lakeland’s laregest mass shooting on Iowa Avenue, Jan. 30, 2023. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

Investigators say and a security video shows a blue Nissan with a temporary paper tag slowing down as it traveled north on Iowa Avenue, its tinted windows rolled down. Masked men fired weapons from the still-moving vehicle toward both sides of the street.

At least one of the weapons was a Glock handgun that had been modified to be fully automatic. Nine of the men shot had minor injuries, while two others had serious wounds.

A week later, the man police say orchestrated the shooting over a drug debt owed, 21-year-old Alex Michael Greene, was shot to death by a Lakeland Police Officer following a high-speed chase through Eagle Lake and Winter Haven. Investigators say Greene carjacked a woman and tried to run over the officer. That’s when LPD Capt. Eric Harper opened fire.

camry in building
The Camry hijacked at Andreas Family Restaurant in Winter Haven by Alex Greene crashed into a building down the street after the driver was shot by a Lakeland police officer, who Greene tried to run over, officials said. The driver died. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

Three Lakeland men were arrested about 10 days later by federal agents and a juvenile was held in Bartow in connection with shooting of the 11 men — the most people shot at one time ever in Lakeland.

Nicholas Quinton Hanson, 32, and Marcus Dewonn Mobley, Jr., 22, are charged with possession of ammunition by convicted felons. Mobley is also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Each faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

Authorities also arrested Brent Johnson III, 19. He faces multiple drug and weapons charges, including grand theft of a firearm and possession of a firearm by an adjudicated delinquent, with a gang enhancement.

The juvenile, Christian Fennell, 15, was being held on two local felony charges: possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition by a delinquent.

A fourth man, Booker Green, was charged with tampering with evidence for trying to dispose of the car used during the shooting.

None of the men arrested have been charged with attempted murder in the case.  Lakeland Police spokeswoman Stephanie Kerr said none of the victims would cooperate with law enforcement.

“We did what we could to find dangerous people shooting up this neighborhood,” Kerr said.  “We filed what charges we could. They either want to take care of stuff themselves or they’re afraid. They’ve been brought up in that culture not to trust the police.”

That shooting prompted Lakeland Police to join a new regional Gang Task Force, formed by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. Every police department in Polk County, the state attorney’s office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are involved.

May 10 — Police officer and suspect shot, three arrests

Law enforcement vehicles line West 10th Street after a police-involved shooting on Wednesday, May 10th, 2023. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

In May, three Lakeland teenagers were charged with multiple violent felonies, including attempted murder, after investigators say one of them — a 13-year-old boy — got into a gunfight with a Lakeland police officer and shot the officer.

That incident began in the 1600 block of Kettles Avenue at about 5:15 p.m. on May 10 when Lakeland Police Officer Jamie Smith spotted a gunman, who had allegedly just shot into a home, getting into a moving silver Dodge, just west of Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard. Smith pursued for several blocks in his marked patrol car before three males can be seen in a dashboard camera video bailing out of the Dodge and running off near the Carrington Place Apartments. The unoccupied Dodge sideswiped another car before stopping.

Police say Wesley Dalmas, 13, is clearly seen in the video holding a gun in his right hand as he runs down the sidewalk.

Police say video from Smith’s body camera shows Dalmas running, turning right down a sidewalk between an apartment building and a retaining wall and Smith following. As Smith rounded the corner, police say the video shows Dalmas was waiting for him, his gun pointed at Smith, then he shot.  Grass and dirt flew up and Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor said that is when Smith was shot in the foot. Smith can also be seen pulling out and aiming his service weapon.

Dalmas, Jermaine Julian, 19, and  Leonard Speight, Jr., 14, are all charged with attempted first-degree murder and resisting arrest with violence. Officials said they believe the teens are still in custody as they await trial.

May 25 — One person shot, no arrests

Lakeland Town Center, formerly known as Searstown, is anchored by Save-A-Lot and the Lakeland Furniture Outlet. | Cindy Glover, LkldNow

A 27-year-old man survived a shooting at Lakeland Town Center at 2:20 a.m. on May 25 after a concert at a party venue in the shopping plaza formerly known as Searstown.

The man was found lying on the ground in the parking lot with gunshot wounds and was taken to Lakeland Regional for treatment. Lakeland Police spokeswoman Robin Tillett said the victim was able to speak with emergency responders providing care and was in stable condition.

Tillett said in May “it does not appear to be a random act.” The suspect is believed to have fled the scene in a vehicle.

Kerr said Friday no arrests have been made.

July 29 — One killed, one injured, one arrest

Jade Fox Lounge
Trash on the ground including yellow event wristbands were the only evidence early Saturday of the chaos at the Highlands Plaza shopping center a few hours earlier. | Cindy Glover, LkldNow

Another shooting happened in the early morning hours of July 29 at the Jade Fox Lounge on Lakeland Highlands Road as it was closing following a party hosted by former FSU standout and NBA player Dwayne Bacon.

His brother, Raheem Bacon, a 25-year-old Lakeland rapper known professionally as 350Heem, died when police say a patron, angry that they could not enter the lounge, opened fire in front of police officers.

Jamilah Johnson, 23, was taken into custody and a firearm was recovered at the scene, Kerr said. So far, Johnson has been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. State Attorney Brian Haas has also added charges of carrying a concealed weapon and tampering with physical evidence. Detectives continue investigating and more charges could be added.

Johnson’s 48-year-old mother, Regina Orr, was also shot in that incident and is recovering.

Aug. 19 — One killed, no arrests

Kia after the accident
The white Kia was found abandoned in the median on West Memorial with multiple bullet holes. | WFLA.com

A fourth shooting took place in the early morning hours of Aug. 19. Police say 46-year-old Katoya “Toy” Wallace was shot and killed while driving on West Memorial Boulevard, near Kathleen High School.

According to friends’ social media accounts, Wallace left a nightclub shortly after it closed and was driving on West Memorial when someone opened fire on his white Kia sedan at around 2:30 a.m.

Wallace’s car then hit a black Ford truck close to the intersection of West Memorial and Chestnut Road. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded and found Wallace’s car abandoned in the center median with multiple bullet holes. Someone took Wallace in their personal vehicle to Lakeland Regional, where he died.

Kerr said no arrests have been made in this shooting.

Three search warrants served Friday

All of the shootings are open and active, with three search warrants served Friday, although Kerr said it was unclear for which case or cases.

She said Thursday’s shooting on Kathleen Road remains an open and active investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Cody Bardwell at cody.bardwell@lakelandgov.net.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: newstips@lkldnow.com

Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

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1 Comment

  1. Here’s the important details; *Friday/Saturday night clubs and partying, *felons, *teenagers, *drugs, *gangs…
    Should we be surprised? Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Especially when it’s stupid people of low morals.
    This is exactly what happens when people drift away from good conservative values.

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