A VERY SAD WEEKEND IN POLK COUNTY (UPDATED 09/30 AM)
Many people throughout Lakeland and Polk County are deeply saddened over the murder of Polk County Sheriff's Deputy Vernon Matthew "Matt" Williams and his K-9 partner Diogi Thursday when a suspect who had been stopped for a traffic violation fled the scene. Another deputy, Douglas Spiers, was wounded in the leg, treated and released from Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
The murderer was found in a very thick area of woods less than 100 yards from where the deputy was shot, hiding in a hollowed area under a fallen oak tree. He was shot numerous times by officers who had ordered him to show his hands but still held the slain deputy's handgun in a threatening manner.
While the shooting took place in the same general area that I live, it was not that close. But many of us where I work looked at television reports in the break room or checked local media sites on the Internet at our desks when we were not on a call. Fortunately for me, my granddaughter's school was not one of those affected by the lockdowns that lasted well into the evening.
Kathleen High School, which was near the crime scene, was closed Friday after their lockdown lasted past 6:00 PM, when the 1,600 strong student body was transported under police escort to a nearby church where parents with proper ID could pick them up. Some were there until close to midnight. It is homecoming weekend for KHS, but related activities did go on. However, the Red Devils' football game was moved from the on-campus stadium to city-owned Bryant Stadium, home to the Lakeland High Dreadnaughts near downtown, and gametime was moved up to 4:00 PM instead of the usual 7:00. Another nearby charter school, McKeel Academy of Technology, also closed for the day.
The Lakeland Ledger looks at Deputy Williams' career and how people in the northwest area around Polk City enjoyed working with him and appreciated his efforts, especially with children. It notes that his personnel file is thick with commendations during his 12 years with the PCSO.
He leaves behind a wife, Nancy, and three teenage children.
Yesterday was Nancy Williams' birthday.
I4J offers our deepest condolences to the Williams family, his friends and collegues on what is a loss for all of us. We also give thanks that Deputy Spiers will recover fully from his wounds.