Pandemonium took over on Winter Haven’s Havendale Boulevard at about 2 p.m. Monday when a suspect connected to last week’s mass shooting in Lakeland fled from law enforcement officers, was involved in several crashes and a carjacking, and was then shot to death by a Lakeland Police captain whom the suspect tried to run over.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said officers and detectives from the Lakeland Police Department, the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were watching 21-year-old Alex Michael Greene at a residence just outside of Eagle Lake “because they suspect he was involved with the shooting last Monday of 11 people in the city of Lakeland.”
Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor said they had a warrant on Greene for a burglary and they were hoping to bring him in to question him about the shooting, as well.
They were about to serve the warrant when Greene jumped into a white Silverado pickup truck and sped away, with Lakeland Police officers chasing him. Greene traveled north into Winter Haven, winding up on Havendale Boulevard as he weaved in and out of traffic.
“For those of you who are familiar with Havendale Boulevard, you know, clearly and unequivocally, that it’s normally bumper-to-bumper traffic,” Judd said.
Judd said LPD Capt. Eric Harper, a 20-year law enforcement veteran who is in his 40s, “obviously sees the danger and is trying to pit the suspect and stop him so that we don’t have this pursuit on a very busy road.”
A pit maneuver involves a law enforcement officer purposely running his or her cruiser into the back side bumper of a vehicle to cause it to spin and stop. The Silverado came to a stop in front of Prime Care Chiropractic Center at 1400 Havendale Blvd.
Judd said Greene then got out of the truck and began running in and out of traffic, with Harper running after him.
“Why he and the captain weren’t run over is just the grace of God, because traffic was all over the place,” Judd said.
Greene then ran to Andreas Family Restaurant, next door to the chiropractic office. An older woman was visiting with friends in the parking lot, her passenger and driver’s side doors open as they exchanged a potted plant. Greene spotted the open car, circled the building and ran back to the woman’s Toyota Camry. The woman, who had witnessed the crash and saw Greene running, slammed her passenger door shut and ran to the driver’s door, but Greene beat her to it, shoved her out of the way and got into her Camry. She tried twice to open the door, but he began driving off.
Harper was now in front of Greene and the Camry, his service pistol pointed at Greene as Harper ordered him to get out of the car. Instead, Greene aimed the car at Harper, who is married and has children. Harper then shot Greene at least six times.
Despite the gunshot wounds, Greene pulled back out onto Havendale Boulevard, heading west for about 50 yards until the car veered over the landscaped median, crossed the eastbound lanes and slammed into The Hamilton Company office, a security company, coming to rest halfway into the building.
Melissa Ingram, manager of the Food Mart across the street from the restaurant, said she heard the gunshots, saw the crash and the ambulance arrive, and deputies performing CPR on Greene as paramedics put him into the back of the ambulance.
Greene was rushed to Winter Haven Hospital, where he died.
“Only the wicked flee when the police try to stop them and that’s what occurred here,” Judd said. “Had he simply not run from us, not fled, then none of this would have happened. We didn’t choose to shoot him. He chose for us to shoot him with his conduct. And you’re not allowed to run from the police and try to carjack people who have just finished lunch at a restaurant and then drive directly at the police and think anything other is going to happen to you. So at the end of the day, we could have taken him into custody peacefully without any problems at all, but he chose for this to be the end.”
LPD Chief Taylor said Greene was “connected to” Monday’s shooting, without elaborating.
“We were certainly able to develop some information that led us over to this address over in Eagle Lake,” Taylor said. “We conducted some surveillance and came up on this gentleman, and I’m not gonna be able to go into a lot of detail as to how we got up on him and how we felt like he was involved. I will tell you that we are very confident that he is, in fact, involved. To what extent we don’t know yet. We’re still working through that.”
Taylor and Judd said it was fortunate that no officers, deputies, agents or members of the public were harmed.
“That just lets you know the violent nature that the people, that these guys and gals deal with every day,” Taylor said of his officers. “It turned into the pandemonium and the mayhem that you see here. It’s unfortunate that he chose that. But be sure that was his choice, not ours.”
Following the press conference, both Judd and Taylor called Harper a “solid” law enforcement officer. In 2017, Harper pulled a fleeing suspect off the wing of an airplane on the taxiway at Lakeland Linder International Airport as the man tried to hijack the plane. Last October, he patrolled Lakeland’s streets during Hurricane Ian.
Harper was also one of nine law enforcement officers involved in the 2006 shooting death of Angilo Freeland, the suspect sought for the slaying of Polk sheriff’s Deputy Matt Williams and his K-9 partner, Diogi. Harper was a deputy sheriff at the time and participated in the largest manhunt in Polk County history after Williams and Diogi were slain in the woods off Wabash Avenue. Harper and the other officers fired 89 rounds at or into Freeland, who was found hiding under a fallen log and, according to reports, pulled Williams’ service pistol on officers before they shot him. The shootings of Freeland were later ruled justified.
Monday’s shooting will now be investigated by investigators with the State’s Attorney’s office.
“Anytime an officer’s involved with a deadly incident, we have a task force in the 10th circuit — Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties — and the reason for that is we want the investigation to be done transparently, but efficiently, and we want the public to have all the answers that they’re entitled to at the end,” said State Attorney Brian Haas. “The team is made up of officers from all over our three county areas. So, for example, today, there’ll be someone from Hardee County, Highlands County and various agencies in Polk County. And the goal there is to have folks that are from other agencies also taking a look at what happened today.”
Haas said the team has already begun investigating and, once they’re finished, they will submit their report to him and his office will take whatever action is deemed necessary, “as we would in any other case.”
Greene, a 2019 Auburndale High School graduate and father of a toddler, has a violent felony record and this is not the first time deputies say he has attempted to hit a law enforcement officer with a car.
In August 2020, a deputy sheriff arrived at a home on 38th Street NW in Winter Haven after receiving a call for service. He activated his marked patrol car’s lights and saw an unknown male run from the house and get into the driver’s seat of a black Mitsubishi Outlander, later determined to be Greene’s mother’s car. The deputy parked his cruiser in front of the SUV to try to prevent the car from leaving and stepped out of his cruiser, but the driver drove through the yard and then aimed the Mitsubishi at the deputy, who had to get back into his cruiser to avoid being hit. While in pursuit, they received a tip that the driver was Greene. They say he led deputies on a short chase, but they disengaged because of the high rate of speed through residential streets that Greene was traveling.
That happened as Greene, who was 6’3 and weighed 180, was awaiting trial for punching and slamming a 16-year-old boy into the ground in Winter Haven. He was charged with felony battery with great bodily harm. Records show he plead guilty, but Judge Jalal Harb withheld adjudication last year.
Later in 2020 he was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted delinquent. An officer described finding two handguns, with magazines loaded and a round in the chamber of one gun. His mother, Dianne Greene, at first lied and told officers they were her guns. Then she said that “Alex was scared because of the virus and wanted a way to protect himself in case of looters.” The 2020 battery case was dropped, as was the battery on a law enforcement officer because “no officer or witness can identify the defendant as the driver of the suspect vehicle in this case. As such, the charges cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Two affidavits noted Greene’s juvenile convictions, one in 2017, when he was 15, of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two convictions of battery.
No arrests have been made in last week’s mass shooting on North Iowa Street in Lakeland that left 11 people wounded. LPD spokeswoman Robin Tillett said detectives and investigators are continuing to work the case as they partner with other agencies.
“There is a vast amount of evidence being processed and ongoing investigative efforts being conducted,” Tillett said.
She added that the two victims who had been in critical condition remain hospitalized, but are now in stable condition. She said all the victims might be eligible for monetary help with the medical bills through funds from the Office of the Attorney General. They would have to:
- Fully cooperate in the investigation and throughout the criminal justice process
- Not be involved in any criminal or illegal activity at the time of the crime
- Not have any forcible felonies on their record.
Video – Monday press conference:
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