06/27/2005

Fla. deputy fires at car, not realizing girl, 12, driving


LAKELAND, Fla.- A sheriff's deputy trying to stop an erratic driver fired at the car when it lurched toward him, not realizing a 12-year-old girl was behind the wheel, officials said. Neither she nor her 6-year-old brother were hit.

Deputy Chris Hillsgrove and a colleague pursued the car Sunday, eventually blocking it between their two patrol cars. When the deputies exited their vehicles, the car lurched forward and backward into the two cars, then drove toward Hillsgrove, Polk County Sheriff's spokeswoman Michal Shanley said.

"He, fearing for his life, fired several shots at the oncoming vehicle and managed to jump out of the way as the vehicle sped by him," Shanley said. The car then crashed into a nearby parked car.

The officers couldn't see the driver because the car's window's were tinted, she said.

The deputies discovered the driver was a 12-year-old girl when they broke a passenger-side window to get in, Shanley said. Her 6-year-old brother was also inside.

The girl suffered cuts and bruises, but neither child had been shot, Shanley said. The shots had passed over her head.

The girl was charged with attempted murder, auto theft, driving without a license and other counts. Hillsgrove was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

The girl had asked for and received the keys to the car, which belonged to a family friend, Shanley said.

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