Lakeland police shooting suspect concerned neighbors | News
LAKELAND, Florida -- Neighbors say more than five years ago they had warned police about Tommie Lanier's behavior, saying that he was "crazy" and had guns. Now, he is accused of shooting a police officer.
But after speaking with Lanier at the time, police determined he was "paranoid," but didn't pose a threat to public safety.
"They should have paid closer attention to it," said neighbor Tom Mallotta.
Mallotta hates to say it, but even back then, they told officers that Lanier was armed and acting crazy.
"I would think they'd look into his background and keep an eye on him," said Mallotta.
A police report from May 2009 shows officers checked on Lanier. He had six handguns then, and told officers they were needed to defend himself. All of them legally registered.
But according to the report he said he wanted an automatic.
He told investigators his neighbors and family were CIA spies trying to "do away" with him. That they were shooting him with "laser drugs."
Police determined Lanier was paranoid, but not violent.
"There was no reason at that point for us to take him into custody (for) any type of mental health evaluation," said police spokesman Sgt. Gary Gross.
Fast forward to yesterday.
Two officers approached Lanier, now 66, in North Lake Wire Park and he allegedly shot officer Doug Mills. The officers returned fire, striking Lanier several times.
Between their visit in 2009 and yesterday, police say they'd had no trouble with him.
"And we did, again, everything we could then," said Gross. "I mean I wish we could have done more, but we can only go as far as the law will allow us to go."
In addition to four loaded handguns, police say Lanier was carrying 67 rounds of ammunition. His intent? Unknown.
His license to carry a concealed weapon had expired in 2012, underscoring say neighbors, his ongoing problem of weapons and mental health.
"I'm pretty sure everybody's glad he's off the street," said neighbor Leatha Clinton.
Lanier remained in serious condition Wednesday evening.
Mills is recovering at home and is expected to be back at work in three to four weeks. Sore, he's told co-workers, but feeling lucky to be alive.