Border Protection agent shot in ambush in Fla. parking lot
The agent suffered severe injuries but is expected to recover
By Dan Scanlan
The Florida Times-Union
OAKLEAF PLANTATION, Fla. — An unprovoked 18-year-old wanted on a narcotics warrant opened fire on a uniformed U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent as he was walking out of an Oakleaf Publix before killing himself Tuesday afternoon, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
The agent was shot multiple times in the ambush as the shooter was driving by, Chief Wayne McKinney said. He suffered severe injuries but is expected to recover.
“He was carrying his grocery bag and caught totally off guard,” McKinney said. “He appeared to be shot from behind.”
The suspect then sped down the parking lot and crashed after shooting himself, the chief said.
He did not know if the agent was wearing a bulletproof vest. McKinney also said the agent never fired a shot. No names have been released, but Customs and Border Protection said the agent is with the Air and Marine Operations.
It happened shortly after 3 p.m. at Publix at Oakleaf Commons at 1075 Oakleaf Plantation Parkway with upward of 30 witnesses, McKinney said. The two had no prior contact, but it appears the agent was targeted.
It sent customers and employees there and at neighboring businesses scurrying. Authorities cordoned off the parking lot as many waited to be interviewed. The Sheriff’s Office put a blue tarpaulin over a car in the middle of the parking lot next a temporary shelter.
Katie Sexton said she was taking a break outside the Alliance and Associates office next to the Publix parking lot when she heard three shots and a car speed away and then crash.
“We saw everybody run out of the store, so we knew something had to have been happening. Someone else heard the person who got shot screaming help help,” she said.
Two or three minutes later, deputies were pulling in, she said.
“He was walking out with his grocery bags, and what we heard but we don’t know it’s true is that the guy thought he was following him and so he got paranoid and unloaded on him,” Sexton said.
Avianca Manning also works at Alliance. She said she had just gotten out of a meeting and was heading outside to go to lunch a little after 3 p.m. when she heard the shots.
“It sounded like construction. We were confused, and then we heard screams and cries for help, then we saw Publix baggers and cashiers and everybody running toward something,” she said.
Manning said she grew up in the up-and-coming Oakleaf area and never would have thought anything like this would happen.
McKinney said investigators do not know what the motive was for the shooting, which was done with a small-caliber handgun. He said it is disturbing that a federal agent can be attacked while shopping for groceries in a quiet suburban shopping center.
“It is something we live with each and every day knowing that going out in our community there are individuals who would target us just because of the badges we wear on our chest,” the chief said.
©2017 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)