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Lakeland Police Officer Dies After Being Shot In Head

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Photo of Arnulfo Crispin. (credit: Lakeland Police Department)

Photo of Arnulfo Crispin. (credit: Lakeland Police Department)

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LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — A central Florida police officer who was shot in the head earlier this week died Wednesday, making him the seventh officer in the state to be killed by gun violence in 2011.

Rookie Lakeland Officer Arnulfo Crispin, 25, was shot in the head on Sunday night after responding to a complaint of some suspicious males in a park, a police report said. An officer who arrived as backup found Crispin wounded and unresponsive. Crispin apparently was shot after asking permission from the men to pat them down for weapons and drugs.

Authorities have arrested the alleged shooter, 19-year-old Kyle Williams, who surrendered Monday morning at the urging of his mother. He is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 24.

On Tuesday, police found a semi-automatic handgun in a crawl space outside the apartment complex where Crispin was shot. The gun is being sent to a crime lab for testing to determine if it was used to shoot the officer.

Crispin grew up in nearby Mulberry and had been a Lakeland officer for just 18 months.

“He served the community well,” police Chief Lisa Womack said Tuesday night in announcing that Crispin was not expected to survive. “He will be sorely missed from this day forward.”

The deadly year for Florida officers began on Jan. 20 when detectives Roger Castillo and Amanda Haworth were fatally shot trying to arrest a fugitive in a notoriously crime-ridden section of Miami. Another officer shot and killed the suspect.

Four days later, St. Petersburg officers Thomas Baitinger and Jeffrey Yaslowitz were killed trying to arrest a suspect hiding in an attic. A U.S. marshal was wounded. The shooter was later killed by officers.

On Feb. 2, Greg Malloy, a correctional officer at the Holmes County Correctional Facility in the Panhandle, was killed in a shootout while assisting local officers in tracking a murder suspect. The suspect also was killed.

St. Petersburg police lost another member on Feb. 21 when Officer David S. Crawford was gunned down after stopping a teen for questioning. A 16-year-old boy later surrendered and confessed to the shooting. His trial is pending.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the officers killed by gunfire were among 13 Florida officers who died in the line of duty this year. Other causes included car accidents and heart failure.

The group, which tracks police fatalities, said 172 officers have been killed in the United States this year, a 16-percent increase over 2010. That includes 65 officers killed by firearms, a 23-percent increase over last year.

On average, a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the country every 53 hours. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 19,000 U.S. officers have been killed.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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