Suspect: I shot NEAR the officer, not AT him

Posted at 5:25 AM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 07:06:11-05

A 25-year-old man was arrested early Thursday after a Tampa police officer said he heard a gunshot "very close" to his unmarked patrol car during an attempted traffic stop in South Tampa.

According to police, the unidentified officer, a member of the DUI team, was driving on South Howard Avenue near West Azeele Street about 1:00 a.m. when he saw a motorist commit several traffic infractions.

The officer followed the vehicle to a house in the 300 block of South New Jersey Avenue.

The officer told supervisors he heard one gunshot in very close proximity to his vehicle that came from the direction of the driveway where the suspect vehicle had parked.

As the officer backed away from the area, he saw a man, later identified as Nicholas Christian Caldwell, standing in the front yard, Tampa police Lt. Ricardo Ubinas said in a news release. Since his view was partially blocked, the officer did not see the man fire a weapon, but saw him run toward the house.

The officer called for backup, and when they arrived on the scene, they approached the house to speak to the man who lived there.

Caldwell told officers he recently was in a dispute with another man. When he saw the unmarked cruiser pull in, he fired a round from a 30/30 caliber rifle into the ground to scare him off, believing it was the other man. Caldwell said he was not targeting the police officer.

Officers found a spent bullet casing in the front yard, the release states.

Caldwell was arrested for discharging a firearm in a residential area, a misdemeanor charge. He will be booked into the Hillsborough County Jail.