Skip to main content
Home World U.S. Weather Business Sports Analysis Politics Law Tech Science Health Entertainment Offbeat Travel Education Specials Autos I-Reports
U.S. News

Killer hunted after Florida officer, dog slain

Adjust font size:
Decrease fontDecrease font
Enlarge fontEnlarge font

LAKELAND, Florida (CNN) -- Authorities planned to spend the night combing wooded areas for a man suspected of shooting two sheriff's deputies, one fatally, and killing a police dog after being pulled over for speeding, the Polk County sheriff said.

"We will find him. We will bring him to justice, the sooner the better," Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday in this central Florida community between Tampa and Orlando.

Deputy Vernon Matthew "Matt" Williams, a 12-year veteran of the department, and his canine officer, Diogi, were both shot to death, Judd said.

Deputy Doug Speirs was shot in the leg and was expected to make a full recovery. He was treated and released at a hospital. (Watch sheriff vow: "We will find him" -- 3:40 Video)

Speirs pulled the suspect over about 11:45 a.m. for speeding, Judd said. The suspect -- described as a black male, 6 feet tall, wearing a white or light khaki T-shirt and dark pants and having a Jamaican accent -- told Speirs he had a Florida identification card but no driver's license.

During the traffic stop, Speirs went back to his car and returned several times to talk to the man, who was driving a rental car. At one point, the man asked, "Are you going to put me in jail?"

Speirs, Judd said, had already called for backup because he was suspicious and did not want to aggravate the situation. The deputy told the suspect that he doubted he would go to jail, saying, "It's a hot day. I'm not in the mood to drive all the way to the county jail."

But the man then ran into some adjacent woods, Judd said. Speirs went in about 200 to 300 feet, then returned to meet arriving officers and set up a perimeter.

Williams, the police dog and Speirs then returned to the woods, where they experienced "a sudden burst of gunfire," Judd said. During the ensuing firefight, Williams, Speirs and the dog were shot. Speirs then called for an ambulance, paramedics and additional police units.

Williams was shot multiple times, Judd said. "I don't believe he felt a thing."

A short time later, a Lakeland police detective was also fired on when he was notifying residents of a nearby home that the suspect might be in the area. When he returned fire, the suspect ran back into the woods, Judd said.

Police released a photo of the suspect but said it was taken off a Florida identification card thought to be false and could not verify the man's name or address. He is thought to be from Miami, Judd said, and police believe he may have some involvement with a narcotics ring.

"We have every reason to believe, at this time, that this is the man," Judd said. A $15,000 reward was posted for information leading to his arrest. Citizens offering information were told to call (800) 226-TIPS.

"We want this guy. We want him very badly. We want him in custody. We want him brought to justice," Judd said. "We know there are people out there that know him very well. If we haven't been to your house yet, we will be."

It was believed that Diogi may have attacked the suspect before being shot, and deputies also returned fire at the suspect. He may be shot or bitten, Judd said.

"We are prepared for a gunfight if he wants a gunfight," Judd said. "Or we're prepared to take him into custody peacefully. If he's got any sense at all, he'll choose that option."

Three schools in the area initially were locked down. Students were bused out of the last facility, a high school, as of about 6:30 p.m. and taken to a church where their parents could pick them up, according to the sheriff's office.

The school board was to decide later Thursday night whether classes would be held at the high school Friday, Judd said.

Williams is survived by his wife and three children, a twin son and daughter, 16, and a 19-year-old son, Judd said. He was shot to death on his wife's birthday.

Follow Related Topics

Search TopicE-mail Alerts



Quick Job Search
  More Options
International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise with Us About Us Contact Us
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
SERVICES » E-mails RSSRSS Feed PodcastsRadio News Icon CNNtoGo CNN Pipeline
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more