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Young Teens Arrested for Lakeland Shooting

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Polk County Sheriff's Office

Polk County deputies have arrested six young teens from Lakeland in connection with the shooting of a 79-year-old man.

The Polk County Sheriff's office says seven teens were present when the elderly man was shot at his booth at the Lakeland Farmers Market on the  Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Two of the boys had approached the man about a firearm, according to the sheriff's office. When he refused to sell, they returned with five other young men.  Two shots were fired, and one hit the vendor in the stomach. He's recovering at Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

The young ages of the teens has many in the community feeling shaken, as seen by the hundreds of comments on the Sheriff's FaceBook page. Of the six boys arrested, one is 14 and one is 15. The Sheriff's office is still searching for  remaining suspect, a 13 year old. The oldest teen arrested is 18.

Stephen Koch , president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, mentors two boys in Polk County. He says he doesn't know the particular circumstances of the boys allegedly involved in this crime. But he said Polk County's unusually high rates of poverty, single parent families, and children with parents in prison puts its kids at risk for juvenile delinquency.

"There are a lot of great things going on in Polk County to help kids," Koch said, " but it sounds like we all need to work a little harder."

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the group of teens was also tied to burglaries in Lakeland.

Robin Sussingham was Senior Editor at WUSF until September 2020.
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