Teen arrested in shooting outside Lakeland park designed to keep kids out of trouble

Victim shot in apparent robbery attempt

LAKELAND, Fla. - A Polk County park that keeps kids out of trouble became the center of an armed robbery and shooting investigation.

Lakeland Police said a 16-year-old boy shot Joseph Cortez, who was at Simpson Park restocking the vending machines, in an attempted robbery.

"Unfortunately we had a bad apple that did a bad thing," said Kevin Cook, Spokesman for the City of Lakeland.

Cortez is expected to make a full recover.

Police said the robbery happened right outside the community center, known not for its crime, but for its positive influence on young lives.

"If you keep them busy then they won't get in trouble," said Marquis Roberts, who runs the center and the man many kids see as a mentor.

Roberts has a wall of fame in the game room with now famous athletes who once came to the community center to stay out of trouble.

"It's for the kids to know that they can do it, too," he said.

Monday's shooting happened just feet away from the after-school program bus with the motto, "filling playgrounds not prisons."

Police said the surveillance cameras at the park did not capture the shooting, but it did provide a good look at the suspect hanging out with two other teens right before it happened.

"That made it so our investigators were able to get right on the case, talk to them, and eventually make the charges," said Cpt. John Thomason with Lakeland Police.

Police arrested the teen Tuesday morning.

The city maintains it's an isolated incident.

"This is a great park, bring the kids, we have wonderful programs here," Cook said.

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