DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Florida

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Roger B. Handberg
, United States Attorney

Man Who Opened Fire on ATF Agents and Lakeland Police Officers After Highspeed Chase on I-4 Pleads Guilty

TAMPA, Fla. — U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Francisco Cabrera, 28, from Dover. today pleaded guilty to three counts of armed robbery, use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, armed carjacking and possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. Cabrera faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 28 years, up to life, in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to the plea agreement, between Jan. 13 and 17, 2022, Cabrera engaged in a crime spree during which he robbed two stores and a gas station in Plant City and Brandon. During these robberies, Cabrera held victims at gunpoint. At times, Cabrera removed the magazine from his pistol and showed bullets to the victims and stated, “this is for real” or “give me the money or I will shoot you.”

On Jan. 19, 2022, Cabrera returned to the gas station he had robbed, approached an individual sitting inside a truck and carjacked him at gunpoint. As Cabrera was escaping in the truck, he brandished his firearm to other individuals who attempted to stop him and help the victim. Hours later, detectives from the Lakeland Police Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agents, working together, located Cabrera in Plant City. Law enforcement activated their lights and sirens and began pursuit. Cabrera fled through Plant City, eventually entering the eastbound on-ramp of Interstate-4 heading towards Lakeland. As Cabrera entered the on-ramp, he stuck his hand out the driver’s side window holding a firearm. He pointed the firearm at law enforcement and fired multiple shots. Once on Interstate-4, Cabrera traveled at speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving in and out of busy midday traffic.

At one point, Cabrera lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a concrete median, nearly causing a collision with oncoming traffic. As he continued to flee, Cabrera fired multiple shots at law enforcement officers, striking their vehicles. Fearing that Cabrera was going to kill someone, and after determining that no other law enforcement officers or civilians would be in danger, an ATF special agent fired at Cabrera striking him twice in his lower back. Officers from the LPD and ATF agents then surrounded Cabrera. The officers provided Cabrera with first aid medical assistance before taking him to the hospital.

This case was investigated by the ATF and LPD. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Diego F. Novaes.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results.


Tampa Field Division