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Shooters wound 3 Lakeland teens at Sweet 16 party

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A Sweet 16 party turned violent Sunday night in Lakeland when three underage youths were shot and another was injured trying to escape.

The party was at the Oakwood Subdivision’s neighborhood clubhouse on Matwood Oak Drive, and four young men who arrived without invitations got angry when the honoree’s grandfather blocked them at the door.

“They said, ‘Okay, we’re shutting the party down,’ and that’s when someone started shooting,” said Earle Farrell, public information officer for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

The victims’ names are not being released because of their ages. Two were taken to Region One Medical Center in critical condition, and the third was taken to the same hospital in stable condition. The teen who was injured when fleeing went to Methodist Hospital in Germantown on Monday.

Injuries reportedly included shots to the lower back, the left leg below the knee and the buttocks. No updates on the victims were available as of press time on Tuesday afternoon.

In their investigation, the SCSO has heard conflicting reports about whether the woman who rented the clubhouse for her daughter’s party was present at the time of the shooting.

Neighbors said they heard gunshots and saw kids scatter from the clubhouse Sunday night. Dispatch sent officers to the scene around 10:30 p.m., and soon ambulances and law enforcement vehicles crowded around the site. Officers at the scene found more than 25 shell casings outside the clubhouse.

Despite reading online comments from Lakeland Mayor Wyatt Bunker about the shooters being gang members or being Cordova and Germantown youths, the SCSO has no information confirming the suspects as such, Farrell said. No one was in custody as of Tuesday afternoon.

Bunker was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

The SCSO is investigating a white Chrysler 200 that left the scene. A witness also reported a license plate number that traced back to an Infiniti, but the address associated with that vehicle was vacant.

Currently, officers are re-interviewing witnesses, and the case remains under active investigation.