FLORAL CITY PARK, Florida — Police fatally shot a gunman they believe had opened fire several times at a controversial natural gas pipeline with high-powered rifle, authorities said.
Police in Florida say the incident unfolded early Sunday morning when the man began taking potshots at the nearly completed Sabal Trail pipeline and related equipment in Dunnellon in Marion County.
As officers arrived at the scene, the suspect fled in a white pickup truck into neighboring Citrus County, leading officers on a 20 mile chase. As he approached Floral City Park, a Florida Highway Patrolman rammed the suspect’s vehicle, forcing him to spin out onto an embankment.
He then fled on foot and as officers closed in they say he brandished his weapon so police opened fire, killing him.
The man was not immediately identified by police, pending notification of his family. No officers or pipeline workers were hurt.
“We know that the suspect was armed and extremely dangerous, and pending the examination of the evidence at the scene, we will be able to determine what other weapons he had in his possession at the time of the shooting,” said Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast.
The $3.2 billion, 515-mile-long pipeline, which stretches from Alabama through Georgia and then through north and central Florida, has sparked protests all along its route since construction began last year. The pipeline is scheduled to be in service by this summer.
The operators of a Facebook page used to organize some of the protests said they “had no previous knowledge of this incident.”
“There is no evidence to link this person and his death, any kind of property damage, or this incident to water protectors in Florida or elsewhere,” they said, adding that they would be prepared to comment further when the suspect was publicly identified.