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Man Who Fired on ATF Agents, Lakeland Police after I-4 Chase Pleads

A Central Florida man who fired on ATF agents and Lake Police officers after a high-speed chase on I-4 has pleaded guilty to a variety of charges related to his crime spree, which will lead him to federal prison.

United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announced that Francisco Cabrera, of Dover in Hillsborough County, pleaded guilty to three counts of armed robbery, use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, armed carjacking, and possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. Cabrera faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 28 years, up to life, in federal prison.

According to the plea agreement, between January 13 and 17, 2022, Cabrera engaged in a crime spree during which he robbed two stores and a gas station in Plant City and Brandon in the Tampa area. During these robberies, Cabrera held victims at gunpoint. At times, Cabrera removed the magazine from his pistol and showed bullets to the victims and stated, “this is for real” or “give me the money or I will shoot you.”

On January 19, 2022, Cabrera returned to the gas station he had robbed, approached an individual sitting inside a truck and carjacked him at gunpoint. As Cabrera was escaping in the truck, he brandished his firearm to other individuals who attempted to stop him and help the victim.

Hours later, detectives from the Lakeland Police Department and ATF special agents, working together, located Cabrera in Plant City. Law enforcement activated their lights and sirens and began pursuit. Cabrera fled through Plant City, eventually entering the eastbound on-ramp of Interstate-4 heading towards Lakeland.

As Cabrera entered the on-ramp, he stuck his hand out the driver’s side window holding a firearm. He pointed the firearm at law enforcement and fired multiple shots. Once on Interstate-4, Cabrera traveled at speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving in and out of busy midday traffic.

At one point, Cabrera lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a concrete median, nearly causing a collision with oncoming traffic. As he continued to flee, Cabrera fired multiple shots at law enforcement officers, striking their vehicles.

Fearing that Cabrera was going to kill someone, and after determining that no other law enforcement officers or civilians would be in danger, an ATF special agent fired at Cabrera striking him twice in his lower back. Officers from the Lakeland Police Department and ATF agents then surrounded Cabrera. The officers provided Cabrera with first aid medical assistance before taking him to the hospital.

This Central Florida case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Lakeland Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Diego F. Novaes. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.

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