02/18/2004

Fla. Cop Shot in Undercover Drug Buy

Officer Down: Chris Sullivan - [Jacksonville, Florida]

Officer in fair condition, injury is not considered life-threatening, police say.

By TIA MITCHELL, The Times-Union
A Jacksonville, Fla. police officer was shot Tuesday night while trying to arrest a suspect after an undercover drug buy.

The officer, Chris Sullivan, was taken to Shands Jacksonville hospital where he was in serious but stable condition late Tuesday night. This morning his condition was upgraded to fair, police said.


Police said Sullivan was shot once in the lower abdomen, and the injury is not life-threatening.

The shooting occurred near the intersection of McQuade Street and Westbrook Road in West Jacksonville about 7:15 p.m. Sullivan was one of four officers trying to arrest Demetric Lavall Grooms, who police said was involved in a drug buy nearby.

Grooms, 24, struggled with the officers, and they used pepper spray on him, Sheriff John Rutherford said. Then Grooms pulled out a gun and fired at least two shots, Rutherford said.

The sheriff said one round struck Sullivan and the other lodged in an undercover police vehicle.

Grooms was then taken into custody, and a gun found at the scene was logged as evidence.

Rutherford said Sullivan, a nine-year veteran, was hit directly under his bulletproof vest. He was taken to the hospital, escorted by patrol units, and several colleagues gathered at the hospital as the news spread.

As he was being transported to the Duval County jail, Grooms briefly escaped from a patrol unit by kicking out the rear window.

"He actually only kicked it twice and the glass busted," Rutherford said. "The officer said he [Grooms] was able to get out before he [the officer] could get his seat belt off."

Grooms, who was restrained with flexible plastic handcuffs, escaped near Beaver and Jefferson streets. He was caught near Fire Station No. 4 Duval and Jefferson streets.


Rutherford said it was the quick action of officers "with the help of some very alert firemen" that contributed to Grooms being caught quickly.

Charges had not been filed against Grooms as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, but Rutherford said he could face an attempted murder charge. He said Grooms had a lengthy arrest history, including charges of domestic battery and drug possession.

Several police officials found out about the shooting while attending graduation ceremonies for the newest class of recruits. Rutherford said the recruits had heard a speech from Undersheriff Wyllie Hodges that reminded them of the possible dangers of the job.

"Clearly this is a great example of what officers can be called on to do," he said
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