Pubdate: Tue, 20 Dec 2011
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2011 The Tribune Co.
Page: A1
Author: KEITH MORELLI, The Tampa Tribune


Arnulfo Crispin In Grave Condition As Suspect, 19, Arrested

A neighborhood park where a Lakeland police officer was shot and 
gravely wounded is known more for being a hang-out for drug dealers 
than a place where children clamor over the jungle gyms.

'Little kids got guns,' said Phillip Rogers, 22, who lives near the 
city-owned Crystal Grove Park, 'and they ain't afraid to use them.' A 
10 p.m. Sunday call about suspicious activity in the park ended in 
tragedy for a popular police officer, who was left for dead. By the 
day's end, officer Arnulfo Crispin barely clung to life at Lakeland 
Regional Medical Center.

The shooting suspect, a 19-year-old Lakeland man, was taken into 
custody about 10 hours later during a massive, multiagency manhunt in 
the Crystal Grove neighborhood.

, surrendered peaceably just 
after 8 a.m. Monday, police said. He was talked into giving himself 
up by his mother, who spoke to him on his cellphone from a telephone 
in the police station. A handgun was recovered, though officers could 
not immediately confirm it was the one used on the shooting.

Police have charged  with attempted first-degree murder of 
a law enforcement officer.

As Crispin lay bleeding and unresponsive on the ground, at least 
three people were seen running off and jumping a fence that 
surrounded the park, police said.

Crystal Grove Park has a reputation among neighbors as being a place 
where drug dealing can be a common sight.

'It's a drug area,' said Rick Weisbrock, who lives across the street. 
'If anyone just sits on the street, they can watch it.' He said 
police occasionally sweep through the park.

'They clean it up,' he said, 'but then it goes back to the way it's 
been. It's pretty bad over there.' Polk County jail records show 
 was arrested on July 3, charged with disorderly conduct 
and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence. He was 
released from jail after posting $750 bail. He pleaded no contest to 
the resisting charge and the disorderly conduct charge was dropped, 
court records show. He was sentenced to community service.

Police and  were not strangers, but it was unclear whether 
the shooting suspect and Crispin knew each other.

Lakeland police Lt. Al Wilson said  has a criminal history 
that includes burglary and that 'it appears as though he has some 
gang affiliations.' Relatives entering ' apartment on 
Monday declined to comment, other than to say they believed he was 
innocent of the charges.

At a news conference Monday morning, Police Chief Lisa Womack said 
Crispin, 25, has been an officer for 18 months. She said Crispin's 
condition was described by doctors as critical to grave. 'Keep him in 
your prayers,' she said.

The shooting has shaken the 226-member police department 'and the 
life of the community,' she said. 'We have not had an officer shot 
since late 1990s, and that was not a serious injury, and prior to 
that it was the mid-1980s.

'It's a traumatic event for all the police officers involved,' she 
said. 'The squad he works with is very angry and emotional. But we 
are a professional department, and we will do what we need to do.

'I have a very, very strong sense that this department will get 
through this,' she said, 'but right now, we have some very 
traumatized officers.' Womack said that at least three people were 
spotted running from the scene but that  'is indeed 
responsible for the shooting. We are certain we have the right 
individual in custody.' Details of the shooting were not immediately released.

'It's a relief to know we have him in custody,' the chief said.

She said she had been in contact with Crispin's family at the 
hospital. She said the officer comes from a 'very large, loving 
family who are absolutely devastated by this. There are no words to 
describe what is occurring there. His mother and father and multiple 
brothers and sisters are at the hospital.' She said that though 
Crispin has been on the force for just 18 months, 'he was an 
outstanding representative of the police department. There's not much 
more to say. He's a great police officer and represents the Lakeland 
Police Department well.' That the shooting occurred so close to the 
holidays 'is absolutely horrible,' Womack said. 'This is absolutely a 
horrible thing for the Lakeland Police Department, for the Lakeland 
community, for Officer Crispin and his family.' Crispin was 
responding to a report of suspicious activity at the park in the 1600 
block of Crystal Grove Drive when he was shot. Police say he never 
got a chance to return fire.

Officers were able to identify others who were in the park at the 
time and managed to focus on  as the possible shooter. From 
there, they made contact with  mother, who coaxed her son 
to surrender at an apartment in the Crystal Grove neighborhood.

The manhunt wound down after  arrest about 8:30 a.m. The 
department had offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Other law enforcement agencies, including the Polk County and 
Hillsborough County sheriff's offices, and police departments in 
Winter Haven, Bartow, Haines City and Tampa assisted in the predawn search.

Tracking dogs scoured the ground, and helicopters swept the skies.

The scene was reminiscent of other police officer shootings in the 
Bay area in the past couple of years, the most recent being the fatal 
shooting of David S. Crawford, a 25-year veteran of the St. 
Petersburg Police Department, in February. Nicholas Lindsey Jr., 16, 
is charged in his death.

Crawford was the third St. Petersburg police officer killed in the 
line of duty this year. In January, St. Petersburg police Sgt. Thomas 
Baitinger and K-9 officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were shot to death when 
they tried to arrest Hydra Lacy on a warrant.

In Tampa, three officers have been shot to death in the past two years.

In June 2010, Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab 
were fatally wounded when they tried to arrest a man on a misdemeanor 
warrant during a traffic stop.

A statewide manhunt ensued, and within a week, Dontae Morris was 
arrested and charged in the shootings.

In August 2009, Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts was questioning 
Humberto Delgado Jr. after seeing him pushing a shopping cart near 
Nebraska Avenue and Arctic Street. The officer was shot to death 
after a brief struggle. In November, a jury found Delgado guilty and 
recommended the death penalty. A judge will decide in February 
whether to sentence him to death or life in prison.

News Channel 8 reporters Jennifer Leigh and Lauren Mayk contributed 
to this report. Powered by TECNAVIA A(c)2011 Media General Inc. All 
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