Pubdate: Tue, 20 Dec 2011 Source: Tampa Tribune (FL) Copyright: 2011 The Tribune Co. Contact: http://www2.tbo.com/static/tools/contact-us/ Website: http://www.tampatrib.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/446 Page: A1 Author: KEITH MORELLI, The Tampa Tribune SITE WHERE OFFICER SHOT A DRUG HAVEN 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 Rights Reserved 12/20/2011 - --- MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart