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Carjacking suspect dies during police pursuit in Lakeland

Updated:

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - A carjacking suspect died in a crash after a pursuit with police, according to reports.

Police said about 3:00 a.m. Sunday they responded to an armed carjacking at Barnett Park on South Lake Avenue.

The victims, Brandon Wars, and his girlfriend, Sheena Carpenter, said that four men approached their car, and ordered them to get out at gunpoint.

The victims said they were forced to lay down on the pavement and one of the suspects struck Ward several times with a semiautomatic handgun.

Carpenter told police one of the suspects kicked her, causing her to hit her head on the pavement.

The suspects allegedly stole the victims’ cellphones, a wallet, a purse, and Wars’ Suzuki Aerio.

As the suspects drove off, one of them reportedly fired at the victims.

Police said another woman was carjacked in Lakeland around 6:30 a.m., but Polk County deputies handled the case.

The 56-year-old woman pulled over into a parking lot near Wabash Avenue and Parker Street because she spilled a drink in her car.

She told deputies she was confronted by three young men who took her 2002 blue Ford Escape and her cellphone by force.

According to reports, the woman was pistol-whipped, had a gun pointed at her and fought her attackers.

The victim is in good condition.

An off-duty police officer spotted both stolen vehicles heading north on Memorial Boulevard at about 7 a.m.

Both vehicle pulled into a RaceTrac gas station, and officers said the suspects switched the vehicle tags.

Police attempted to stop the Suzuki, but the driver sped away, sparking a police pursuit.

Officers chased the suspect, who they said purposely rammed another car on North Florida Avenue.

That car spun out of control, hit a tree and rolled back into traffic.

An officer then quickly maneuvered his marked patrol car to avoid a collision with the Ford Focus and hit the rear of the suspects' vehicle, causing the suspect’s vehicle to spin into the path of Officer Greg Hardee.

As the suspect's vehicle was moving, the driver, Brian Demarcus West, jumped out and was hit by Officer Hardee, who police said was trying to avoid the crash.

West was transported to the Lakeland Regional Medical Center where he died of his injuries. The other suspects were transported to LRMC and treated for minor injuries.

Detectives are interviewing all the suspects as well as working with deputies and the State Attorney’s Office to determining the appropriate charges.