Two police officers were released from the hospital and were hailed as heroes Wednesday after a Florida man called 911 and then opened fire on them in what investigators described as an ambush.
The man, identified as John Goepferich, 59, of Lake Wales, about 60 miles east of Tampa, was wounded and faces charges of attempted first-degree murder on a law enforcement officer, shooting into an occupied vehicle and related counts. He was being treated for gunshot wounds in his right arm and his back, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
"He called us and lured us to come to his house," Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez told reporters. "As soon as we arrived, he started shooting."
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All available Lake Wales officers and Polk County deputies responded when Goepferich opened fire after Officers John Schwarze and Benjamin Metz responded to the 911 call about 6 p.m. Tuesday, said Judd, who said he had no idea why the man would have wanted to kill police.
Court records show no criminal record for Goepferich other than a 2011 trespassing charge that wasn't prosecuted. But neighbors told NBC station WFLA of Tampa that uniformed officers had been to the house about a month ago. Reports that two of his children work for the sheriff's department couldn't immediately be confirmed.
Schwarze, 45, and Metz, 38, weren't seriously injured and were home Wednesday, Velasquez said. Police said Schwarze's duty belt saved his life by redirecting a bullet away from his stomach.
"Thank you God for the safety of Officer Schwarze and Officer Metz and for the safety of all of the officers during last evening's shooting," the police department said in a statement posted Wednesday on Facebook.