PALATKA, Fla. - A traffic stop turned deadly when a fleeing suspect was killed by a Florida Highway Patrol officer after the suspect allegedly shot him in the face.
FHP officer Lawrence Andrew Litzell stopped a maroon Mercury Grand Marquis close to downtown Palatka around 12:44 a.m., according to FHP public information officer Sgt. Dylan Bryan. Two men were inside the car, including 24-year-old Somourian Jamal Wingo, both men fled on foot and split up. Litzell followed one of the suspects in his patrol car for a brief period, then began to chase him on foot. "When one of the subjects then brandished a firearm, displayed a firearm, and shot the trooper, the trooper immediately returned fire, striking the suspect, and killing that suspect," Bryan said.
Litzell was shot in the face and airlifted to UF Health in Gainesville.
Wingo was found dead near 2nd Street and Laurel Street. A .25 semi-automatic handgun was found at the scene near Wingo, according to Sgt. Bryan. The other suspect is still at large.
Wingo served a two year sentence with the Florida Department of Corrections following an arrest and conviction for cocaine selling or manufacturing or delivering out of St. John's County. Wingo was released in May of 2012. Wingo also has charges going back to 2008 out of St. john's County for possession of a weapon, marijuana possession, probation violation and non-moving traffic violations. According to the FDOC, Wingo lives in St. Augustine, however family members claim he lived in Palatka.
Litzell, 36, is an 11-year veteran of the FHP and is based at the St. Augustine office. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting on ongoing investigation into the shooting. According to Sgt. Bryan, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office and the Palatka Police Department are also assisting with the investigation. FHP did not say why the Grand Marquis was stopped.
Wingo's family reacts
Several distraught family members Wingo came to the scene after daylight and were critical of law enforcement, questioning if the incident went down as they were told.
"It is messed up. I don't believe they done that. They could have shot him in the leg. They did not have to kill him. They got TASERS, they got pepper spray, ya'll are trained. Why do you keep killing the young black guys?" Stephanie Edwards, Wingo's aunt. "I just hate that something like this happened, that anybody got hurt, the officer, my cousin. This is awful, it is terrible, it needs to stop. We need justice for everybody. This is terrible," said Betty Hodges, cousin.
Family members said Wingo had no license and they believe he ran because he feared for his life. They claim Wingo's father died after being TASED in 2005 by officers from the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.