POLK COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10)–Three PCSO deputies were forced to shoot at a vehicle that was fleeing from Bowling Green Police when the driver of the vehicle attempted to run them over while they were assisting with placing stop sticks and maintaining a perimeter along the route.Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Drug Lab Earns Accreditation
Just after midnight on Friday, November 19, 2021, the suspects, 27-year-old James Carlton Hilburn, Jr. of Riverview, and 25-year-old Justin Alan Norris of Dover, were caught in the act of burglarizing a storage unit facility in Bowling Green, Florida, south of Fort Meade, by Bowling Green Police. BGPD notified PCSO that they were pursuing the suspects into Polk County, as they were fleeing northbound on US Hwy 17 into Fort Meade in a 2010 Nissan Altima with an Alabama tag. The pursuit continued onto CR 640 heading west. Lt. William “Billy” Strickland authorized PCSO deputies to establish a perimeter and deploy stop sticks in an attempt to help catch the fleeing suspects. PCSO did not actively engage in the pursuit.
One set of stop sticks was deployed at CR 640 and Old Hwy 37, but the suspects were able to avoid hitting them. The fleeing suspects then headed north on Old Hwy 37, and PCSO deputies deployed another set of stop sticks on that roadway, but again the suspects avoided running over the device.
While fleeing from BGPD, the suspects drove in excess of 100 MPH, then would alternately slow down and turn off their headlights, and “brake check” the pursuing police car. BGPD advised PCSO that the suspects turned west onto State Road 60 in Mulberry. All units observed the suspects turn onto Prairie Industrial Parkway, and Deputy Sheriff Alex Watson deployed stop sticks on that road. Lt. Strickland and Deputy Sheriff Dylan Harrison positioned their patrol cars near the industrial park entrance; DS Harrison grabbed his stop sticks as well, ready to deploy them.
The deputies held the perimeter as the fleeing car turned off of Prairie Industrial Parkway and into the grass, running parallel along railroad tracks. Deputy Watson re-deployed his stop sticks into the grass and the path of the car. The suspects made the decision at that point to veer directly towards Lt. Strickland and Deputies Watson and Harrison, instead of driving back out onto SR 60. In fear for their lives, all three deputies fired multiple rounds from their agency-issued handguns at the car while it rapidly approached. The car then struck a fence and came to a stop.
The suspects were removed from the car, and the deputies administered first aid while summoning an ambulance.
Hilburn, who was driving, was shot in the face, and was grazed by bullets on both legs. He was placed in a medically-induced coma and is in stable but critical condition.
Norris, who was the passenger, was shot in the leg and grazed on both arms. He was treated and released to PCSO custody, then booked into the Polk County Jail for existing out-of-county warrants.READ MORE: The City Of Tampa Appoints New Manager Of Housing And Community Development
No law enforcement officers were injured during this event.
“These are career criminals. They have a history of committing violent felonies and both have outstanding warrants. After being caught in the act of committing an armed burglary, they made the decision to flee, evade arrest, and then tried to run over our deputies. Our deputies were forced to protect themselves from these dangerous suspects,” said Grady Judd, Sheriff
During the processing of the suspect vehicle, a .380 Ruger handgun with an extended magazine was located in the driver’s seat. Crime Scene Investigators and detectives are still processing the scene and the evidence.
The Bowling Green Police Department will have burglary charges and fleeing charges for both suspects. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office will be charging both suspects with three counts each attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. More charges are pending.
Hilburn’s criminal history includes six felonies and five misdemeanors, including charges for robbery, aggravated battery, battery domestic violence, stalking, interference with child custody, drug possession, DUI, resisting arrest, and DWLSR. He had outstanding warrants for aggravated assault (2 counts); robbery; petit theft; battery domestic violence; and failure to appear (original charge – battery domestic violence).
Norris had outstanding warrants from Hillsborough County for grand theft of a motor vehicle; failure to appear (original charge – aggravated assault with a deadly weapon); failure to appear (original charge – two counts of burglary); and failure to appear (original charge – petit theft).
Norris’ criminal history includes 28 felonies and six misdemeanors, including charges for robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft of a firearm, grand theft of a vehicle, trafficking in stolen property, burglary, loitering/prowling, criminal mischief, petit theft, and drug possession. He spent three years and nine months in state prison for burglary, grand theft of a firearm, and trafficking in stolen property.
Standard protocol for all deputy-involved shootings includes three independent investigations: the PCSO Homicide Unit is conducting the criminal investigation, the PCSO Administrative Investigations is conducting an administrative inquiry, and the State Attorney’s Office will conduct a separate investigation. Per agency protocol the members involved will be on administrative leave with pay during the initial phase of the investigation.MORE NEWS: Local Dentist Gives Back To The Humane Society Of Tampa Bay
Lt. Billy Strickland is 49 years old and has been with PCSO for 20 years. He is a supervisor in the Southwest District. Deputy Sheriff Watson is 32 years old and has been with PCSO for seven years. He’s assigned to Southwest District patrol. Deputy Sheriff Harrison is 27 years old and has been with PCSO for two years. He’s assigned to the Mulberry Sheriff’s Station.