LAKE PLACID — Two men were in custody today in the shooting death of a Florida Highway Patrol officer, authorities said.
Joshua Lee Altersberger, 19, was arrested at his home in Sebring about 4:30 a.m. and was charged with killing Sgt. Nicholas Sottile a day earlier. A second man, Quintin Jerome Kinder, 21, of Bainbridge, Ga., was also arrested, after giving himself up to a search team at about 6 a.m.; charges against Kinder were pending.
Authorities also recovered a vehicle and a gun believed to have been used in the shooting.
Sottile, 48, had stopped a car driving erratically on northbound U.S. 27 near Witmore Curve, south of Hwy. 66, and pulled it over. As Sottile approached the vehicle, Kinder, the passenger, fled on foot, said Ernie Duarte, a spokesman for the highway patrol. Sottile went back to his patrol car to call for backup and then began walking toward the suspects’ car when Altersberger shot him in the chest at 3:22 p.m., Duarte said.
Altersberger fled; Sottile was flown to Florida Hospital Lake Placid and pronounced dead.
Sottile had worked for the FHP for nearly 24 years. He is survived by a wife, Elizabeth; a daughter, Heather, of Orlando; and a son Nicholas, of Tampa, who also works for the FHP.
The last time a Florida Highway Patrol trooper was shot and killed was in May 1998, in Pasco County. James B. Crooks, 23, was attempting to apprehend a suspect who had just shot and killed two Tampa Police Department detectives. Crooks had been with FHP for nine months.
About 200 law enforcement officers from surrounding agencies descended on the scene of the shooting, searching for the suspects. Law Enforcement from Polk County poured into Highlands County to assist, hauling bicycles and ATVs.
Helicopters and planes searched the orange groves on either side of the highway in regular search patterns. Officers and canine units also searched on foot.
Grim-faced officers comforted one another at the scene, as crime scene investigators used metal detectors to search the ground for shell casings or other evidence around the patrol unit of the officer.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
=================== Funeral Schedule
Visitation for Sgt. Nicholas Sottile will be held Monday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Memorial United Methodist Church, 500 Kent Ave., Lake Placid.
Funeral services are set for Tuesday at 1 p.m., at the Restoration Church of the Highlands, 8475 Sparta Road, Sebring.