Police have identified an 18-year-old who opened fire on a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer then killed himself in the middle of a busy Publix parking lot Tuesday afternoon.
Officials say the officer is in critical condition after he was shot several times while carrying groceries to his car.
Thomas Jacob Lewis, 18, has been identified as the shooter. He killed himself after shooting the officer, police said.
Lewis' mother issued this statement on Wednesday: As the mother of Jake Lewis, I can only express my horror and grief at yesterday's events. Although Jake no longer lived with me as a result of the structure and discipline that I attempted to place on him, I loved him dearly and he would still text me.
When the Clay County Sheriff's Office called me yesterday regarding his arrest warrant, I contacted Jake immediately and begged him to turn himself in. I would ask first for your prayers on behalf of the wounded officer and our law-enforcement community as they face danger every day. Second, I ask for your prayers for a grieving family that will try to remember Jake from better times. Finally if it is in your heart I ask for your prayers for the soul of my deceased son. Thank you for your patience and privacy during this difficult time.
Clay County deputies continued their investigation Tuesday night in the Oakleaf Plantation Publix parking lot, just hours after the federal agent was shot in the stomach.
“The suspect is a white male, 18 years in age at this time, we’re not exactly sure what the motives were behind this,” said Wayne McKinney, chief of investigations with Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
Detectives are still trying to figure out the motive for the shooting. They said the shooter was wanted for sale and delivery of a narcotic.
Avianca Manning works near the Publix and was in the store’s parking lot to get something to eat, when she saw the shooting.
“We heard three quick shots. He was getting ready to put his groceries in the car, and then the shots went off. I don’t know if the shooter felt he was being followed or watched, what have you, if he was just paranoid, and took a few shots at him, I don’t know what hit or what missed, but I know the officer did go down,” Manning said.
There are still a lot of questions unanswered. On Tuesday night, detectives towed the suspect’s car from the parking lot. Detectives focused on the middle of the parking lot, where they say it all ended.
“The suspect, at this time, after he fired the shots, striking the officer, he then continued driving down the lane, and appeared to succumb to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, striking other vehicles in the parking lot,” McKinney said.
“We saw people emerging from Publix like screaming and we heard a 'help,' literally like two minutes later, we saw a whole bunch of cops swarm the area and tape everything off,” Manning said.
Action News Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said he believes the officer was targeted by the suspect.
“You always have to be prepared. If you wear the uniform, you’re a target, plain and simple. When you wear that uniform, you’re a target and you have to keep your head on a swivel simply because of people like this,” Jefferson said.
A blood center is hosting a blood drive in honor of the officer.
Officials say he needed several blood transfusions after the shooting, and Orange Park Medical Center's blood supply was depleted.
LifeSouth Community Blood Centers plans to hold a blood drive at Orange Park Medical Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in honor of the officer.
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