The Bradenton man suspected in at least four carjackings and an armed robbery died Wednesday after police said he shot himself in the head as officers closed in on him a day earlier.
Bradenton police officers Tuesday evening spotted Cody Morrison, 29, as he drove a stolen vehicle on Manatee Avenue East. The pursuit ultimately ended when Morrison shot himself.
Morrison died 10:15 a.m. Wednesday at Blake Medical Center. He had family at his bedside, according to Bradenton police spokesman Lt. James Racky.
Earlier Tuesday, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office besieged a home in the 2300 block of 37th Avenue East in Samoset where Morrison had reportedly been seen running into after a carjacking in Bradenton, a carjacking in Sarasota and an armed robbery in East Manatee.
We didn’t fall upon him by accident. It was the result of good police work
Bradenton Chief of Police Melanie Bevan
After an eight-hour standoff, the SWAT team entered the home around 4 p.m. Tuesday and Morrison was not found.
At 6:26 p.m., deputies were called to a nearby gas station to reports of another carjacking, according to the sheriff’s office. Morrison had reportedly taken a 2003 Mitsubishi Galant with the keys left inside at a Marathon gas station, 3101 15th St. E.. He left behind another stolen vehicle, according to authorities.
At 7:16 p.m. Tuesday, officers spotted the stolen Galant westbound on Manatee Avenue East and a pursuit ensued, according to Bradenton police. At the intersection of Lafayette Street and Desoto Street, Morrison took off running after crashing the Galant.
Morrison kicked in the door to a home in the 200 block of Crescent Court East, entered robbed two residents at gunpoint of cash, a cell phone and the keys to a vehicle. He was unable to get into the vehicle before deputies in the sheriff’s office helicopter spotted Morrison from the air.
As Morrison saw officers approaching, he ran west through yards of some of nearby homes. As he did, police reportedly heard a single shot.
Officers never fired back, however.
“They didn’t know if he fired the weapon intentionally,” Racky said. “It is believed that weapon was discharged when he was trying to jump a fence.”
A perimeter was set up as Morrison made his way across west Vermont Avenue East toward 24th Street East, so he headed back east toward Vermont Avenue. Finally, Morrison walked out into the middle of the road in the 200 block of Vermont Avenue.
“Every time we saw him he was running away. He never pointed a weapon at an officer and, when we finally caught up to him, he had the gun pointed at his head,” Racky said. “At that point we were trying to save his life.”
Officers released K9 Riggs at Morrison after he failed to comply with multiple commands to put down the gun. Riggs bit Morrison on his side near the ribs and then Morrison turned, put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
“He didn’t say a single word to any officer at any point,” Racky said.
The sheriff’s office is now investigating several car and business burglaries detectives think Morrison may have committed, spokesman Dave Bristow said. The burglaries go as far back as a week, he added.
Officers never fired
Bradenton police officers never returned fire despite a gunshot having been fired in their direction during the pursuit.
Had he pointed a gun at an officer and they had a clear shot, officers would have been forced to shoot Morrison, Racky said.
No officers were injured, he added.
Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan commended the officers involved in Tuesday’s pursuit during Wednesday morning’s Bradenton City Council meeting.
“We didn’t fall upon him by accident. It was the result of good police work,” Bevan said. “There was a shot fired before he tried to take his life and it is likely that it was in the direction of the officer and K9 that was trying to apprehend him.”
She went on to say, “The officers did a great job showing restraint. It wound up well for us, not so good for him.”
Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith, whose ward includes the neighborhood where Morrison was located, also shared his gratitude for how the situation was handled.
“At a time when police officers are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny, the guys did a great job,” Smith said. “They had every justification to escalate the situation but worked very hard to lower the intensity. While the suspect was ultimately injured, our officers did everything they could to protect the community while refraining from escalating the situation.”
Anyone with any information on any of these cases can call Bradenton Police Sgt. Anthony Cerniglia at 941-932- 9305, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011, the Palmetto Police Department at 941-721-2000 and the Sarasota Police Department at 941-366-8000.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, contributed to this report.