Around 10:00 p.m. on Friday, September 2, 2011, Michael Lester and his wife were engaged in a dispute last evening at their home located at 413 Diamond Ridge Drive in Auburndale, which turned physical. Their 8-year-old daughter called 911 but hung up once Telecommunicators at the Polk County Sheriff's Office Emergency Communications Center (ECC) answered the call.
Telecommunicators, per standard operating procedure, called back to the number from which was dialed, two times. The first time, the call went straight to voicemail. The second time, the 8-year-old girl answered, and she told the Telecommunicator "nevermind" and that everything was okay.
While she was still on the line with the PCSO Telecommunicator, her mother took the cell phone and began talking to the Telecommunicator. She told them everything was okay and that nobody needed to come to the house. She added that she and her daughter had already left but that her husband was still in the home.
Per standard operating procedure, an officer was dispatched to the home to ensure everyone there was okay. The Telecommunicator also relayed to Lester's wife that an officer was responding.
When APD Officer Stacy Booth arrived on-scene and walked up to the front door, she was struck by a barrage of bullets through the front door by what is now known as an SKS assault rifle, with 7.62 X 39 MM rounds. Officer Booth was struck in the right wrist area, the holster of her gun belt where her agency-issued firearm was (rendering it inoperable), and her lower abdomen.
Officer Booth fell to the ground and dragged herself to the residence next door, located at 419 Diamond Branch Road.
The garage door of that residence was opening, due to the fact that the residents there, Jose Acosta and his wife, Mabel Placeras, had heard gunfire and were raising the garage door to go outside and see what the commotion was. Officer Booth dragged herself into the safety of their garage.
Immediately recognizing that there was an officer who had been seriously injured, Jose and Mabel closed the garage door and called 911. Although there was a language barrier, they conveyed as best they could what was happening at their home.
Meanwhile, Officer Booth, in extreme pain and duress, was able to direct back-up officers and EMS via her radio to the scene, warning them several times that the man inside the home at 413 Diamond Ridge Drive was armed and was shooting through the front door. Because the PCSO ECC dispatches for PCSO, Winter Haven PD, and Auburndale PD (among others), units from all three agencies immediately responded.
Officer Booth was wearing her agency-issued bullet resistant vest. However, the rounds that struck her hit her in areas of her body not protected by the vest.
After Michael Lester was taken into custody, detectives located the following firearms and ammunition in his home:
Over 1,000 rounds of live ammunition; approximately 30 spent 7.62 X 39 MM shell casings (20 were fired through the front door, 10 or more were fired through the ceiling); a Reuger mini 30, loaded with 9 live rounds and one in the chamber; an SKS assault rifle, loaded with 9 live 7.62 X 39 MM rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber; and a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun loaded with live buckshot.
Sheriff Grady Judd has this to say about last night's events:
"It is through the grace of God, and the caring citizens who live next door to Michael Lester, that Officer Stacy Booth did not perish last night. She showed an amazing amount of resolve to be able to get out of harm's way and warn responding officers of the danger inside that home. The neighbors, Jose and his wife Mabel, are heroes - they immediately stepped in to help out when they saw an officer down, and we cannot thank them enough for what they did. We are also grateful today for the agencies who responded to assist last night. Although over 30 shots were fired by Michael Lester last night, and he had an arsenal at his disposal, nobody else was injured, and he was taken into custody to stand trial for these heinous crimes. We continue to pray for a speedy recovery for Officer Booth. The members of the Auburndale Police Department and the Booth family are in our thoughts and prayers."