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Hillsborough Deputies Wound Two Suspects in Dinnertime Drug Sting at Restaurant

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An undercover drug sting during the dinner rush at a local fast-food restaurant went bad Tuesday evening, as Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies shot two suspects, wounding one mildly and the other critically.

According to authorities, undercover officers met with the suspects at a restaurant at College Avenue and Cypress Village Boulevard at around five o'clock on Tuesday to conduct a sale of two ounces of cocaine. Police say that, during the course of negotiations, one of the suspects produced a firearm and leveled it at an undercover deputy.

As the deputies wore communications equipment that allowed nearby deputies to listen in on the conversation, those nearby deputies immediately responded in an unmarked Ford Explorer with emergency lights, at which point one or both of the suspects allegedly opened fire. Police say that all six officers returned fire, and both suspects sustained injuries as a result. The deputies were uninjured in the affray.

According to the police, twenty-year-old Luis F. Gutierrez, who drove the suspects' vehicle, was apprehended two miles later and taken to Tampa General Hospital with life-threatening wounds.

Efren Esparza-Lopez, of Ruskin and who deputies allege brandished the firearm, fled on foot and was taken via private vehicle to Brandon Regional Hospital. He was treated and released into the custody of sheriff's deputies. The nineteen year old was booked into Hillsborough County Jail early the next morning and is being held without bail on four counts of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and enhancements for making the attempt on a law-enforcement officer, robbery of between $300 and $20,000, delivery of methamphetamine, sale of cocaine, possession of cocaine, possession of amphetamine, possession of cannabis with intent to sell, possession of cannabis, possession of alprazolam, possession of alprazolam with intent to sell, and possession of amphetamine with intent to sell.

The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand have been defending people charged with drug-related felonies for over a quarter century. Contact us today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area case.

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