Deputy Matt Williams & K9 Diogi - EOW September 28th, 2006
It is with deep regret that I announce the death of both Deputy Matt Williams and his K9 partner Diogi on September 28th, 2006.
This situation started simply as a traffic stop with some questionable ID and when Matt pulled up to back up the officer who was on the initial stop, the suspect fled. The two officers did what any of us would do...Matt hooked up his dog and they started to track the suspect, but without further support. To be honest, I think most of us would likely have done the same thing.
Roughly 300 feet into the woods from where they started the suspect ambushed the officers, killing Diogi (Matt's dog) as well as Matt and wounding the other officer in the leg. Matt was a student of our programs and it always has significant impact when this occurs with someone you know. Sadly, Matt is one of a number of K9 officers I have known personally over the years who have given their lives in the line of duty.
The suspect was subsequently tracked down the next day and killed by SWAT team members.
I have added a number of photos of Matt that were taken during various training exercises in Lake County Florida in 2004. Rest well Matt and Diogi. You have both earned a place on high. - Bob Eden
LAKELAND, Fla. Sep 28, 2006 (AP) - A man who had been pulled over for a traffic violation shot two sheriff's deputies Thursday, killing one of them and prompting an intensive manhunt that forced a lockdown at three schools, officials said.
Authorities told residents to lock themselves in their homes as officers swarmed the rural area. The gunman remained at large.
The shooter was first approached during a traffic stop for speeding, officials said. The deputy became suspicious of the man's ID, and the suspect bolted into thick brush.
That deputy and another who arrived seconds later with a police dog chased the suspect.
As the officers tracked him, there was a "burst of gunfire," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. The first deputy returned fire, and both deputies and the dog were shot. Judd said the killed deputy was Vernon Matthew "Matt" Williams, 39.
"If he had been in the ER or the operating room, it wouldn't have made a difference," Judd said. "He was shot multiple times. I don't believe he felt a thing."
The deputy who made the traffic stop, Douglas Speirs, 39, was treated for a gunshot wound to the leg and released Thursday evening, a sheriff's spokeswoman said.
The suspect later exchanged gunfire with a Lakeland police detective who was at a home warning residents to stay inside. No one was hit.
"This is the face of the man who shot and killed my deputy today," Judd said at a news conference, holding the photo from the identification card the suspect showed Speirs.
The card carried the name of a 32-year-old Miami man, but Judd cautioned that the information could be bogus.
Polk Deputy Gunned Down
By BILLY TOWNSEND , The Tampa Tribune
Tampa Bay Online
Sep 28, 2006
LAKELAND - Donna Wood's voice cracked as she said the name into her cell phone, answering yet another media call for information Thursday afternoon.
"Deputy Matt Williams," said Wood, a Polk County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman. "He left a wife and three children."
Just moments before, a somber Sheriff Grady Judd had described how a routine lunchtime traffic stop went awry, leaving Williams, 39, and his K-9 dog dead. A second deputy, Douglas Speirs, also 39, was wounded in the leg. He is expected to make a full recovery.
"It's been a very bad day at the sheriff's office," Wood said to another caller, doing her job and grieving at the same time.
The suspect in the shooting - tentatively identified late Thursday night - remained at large into the night. Throughout the day, over a large swath of north Lakeland, schools were locked down, streets were sealed off and residents were told to stay inside.
Police and television helicopters, as many as seven at one time, hovered above. Hordes of law enforcement officers representing virtually every agency in West Central Florida moved from house to house in a very personal manhunt.
Investigators said they had a photo of the man they were looking for. But they were far less certain of his supposed name - Eswardo O. Ramclaim - and Miami address, which they took from an identification card.
Both were likely bogus, Judd said.
The crimes are not. The man is accused of ambushing the two deputies who pursued him into a wooded area, killing Williams with multiple shots - on his wife's birthday.
Polk County Sheriff Confirms Death of Murder Suspect
An all-out manhunt ended in Polk County for a man wanted for shooting two sheriff's deputies, killing one of them and his K-9 partner.
At around 9:50 a.m., the Polk County Sheriff made the announcement that SWAT team members had discovered the suspect. Deputies were literally standing on-top of the suspect and didn't even know it until he moved. The SWAT team gave instructions which the suspect didn't obey, and evetually it ended with a SWAT team member, or members, shooting and killing the suspect.
Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary was on hand when word came that the suspect had been captured.
Hundreds of law enforcement personnel from across Central Florida traveled to Lakeland Thursday to help in the manhunt.
Orange County alone sent 20 deputies and 10 command post personnel to Polk County to help out.
For some residents, the gunfire literally happened right in their backyards.
Paul Prebor came face to face with the suspect. He says the man was right near him when he started shooting.
Prebor said: "[The suspect] shot twice. Now remember this happened quick. Then they shot back. He darted [one] way and I darted behind the house. I went to the front door to beeline to get my wife. They told me to leave and I said ‘no not without my wife.’ I got my wife and proceeded across the street."
Folks we talked to say they're still reeling from what happened and are now just trying to focus to get their lives back to normal.
The entire manhunt, began unfolding shortly before noon Thursday, after what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop in Lakeland.
Deputy Matthew Williams pulled over who they believed to be Eswardo Ramclaim, (The suspect may have gone by the names of Alex or Andrew Cloxton or Angelo Freeland) but he fled into a thickly, wooded area when the officer began asking him about his identity.
Investigators say deputies then chased the suspect into the woods where he opened fire. One deputy and his K-9 partner were killed. A second deputy was also shot but is now out of the hospital. The victim, Matthew Williams, had worked for the sheriff's office for 12 years. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
Crews marked off an area two to three square miles searching for Ramclaim, but came up empty handed on Thursday night.
Still, deputies vowed to not give up the fight, and they didn't until they found their man.
On Thursday, Sheriff Grady Judd informed everyone including the suspect, "We're prepared for a gunfight if he wants one. We're prepared to take him into custody peacefully. He'll choose that option. But we're prepared to respond in whatever manner he chooses." More than 500 officers searched the area before it ended around 10 a.m.
The surviving deputy is Doug Speirs. He initiated the traffic stop. Speirs has been with the sheriff's office for the last six years. He has been released from the hospital and will spend the day with the family of the late Deputy Matthew Williams.
Devoted, Playful Williams Loved People, Dogs
By BAIRD HELGESON , The Tampa Tribune
Tampa Bay Online
Sep 30, 2006
POLK CITY - Somewhere on Matt Williams' cell phone is a call from Chase Campbell.
Williams' 16-year-old neighbor called to find out about rumors that a motorist had shot two Polk County sheriff's deputies and one of their K-9 partners during a routine traffic stop Thursday.
Williams never got the call.
As Campbell dialed sometime after 12:30 p.m., Williams, a 12-year veteran with the sheriff's office, and his partner, a German shepherd named Diogi, lay in a wooded area of Lakeland dying from gunshot wounds after chasing the suspect on foot.
"It's so strange to think about that I was calling when all this was going on," Campbell said Friday.
Williams was the kind of guy who gave out his cell number to friends and neighbors and never minded a call, even to share a good joke. If there was a problem, they called Williams.
"He was just a real good guy," Campbell said.
The gunfight ignited a daylong manhunt that ended Friday morning when authorities surrounded the driver hidden in a hole under a fallen tree. Authorities said they fatally shot the man, thought to be Angilo Freeland, after he flashed a gun as they ordered him out from the hole.
Douglas Speirs, the other deputy wounded Thursday, was shot in the leg. He was released from the hospital and is expected to recover.
Freeland's death did little to console friends and neighbors of Williams, 39, who died as he was supposed to meet his wife, Nancy, for lunch to celebrate her 40th birthday.
Friends remember Vernon Matthew Williams as a likable jokester and point to his K-9 partner's name as a testament to his offbeat sense of humor. They said that behind the uniform, Williams was an ordinary Polk County guy who liked big glasses of iced tea, tinkering with tractors and relished his low-key way of life.
Williams' family declined to comment for the story, except to say, "He was her rock, and now he is gone," said Juanita Harwell, the widow's sister.
If the family couldn't find words to express their grief, friends and co-workers ensured Williams' life was not forgotten.
"He was a hero. He lived as a hero. He died as a hero," said sheriff's Detective Mike Evans, a co-worker and close friend of Williams.'
Loved Ones Gather To Grieve
Williams' rural Polk City home became a gathering place for friends, family and co-workers whose arrivals - some in patrol cars - began early in the morning and continued late into the evening Friday. They brought chicken, lasagna and comfort for the grieving family.
Several arrived grim-faced, leaving in tears, puffing cigarettes or chirping the tires as they roared off down the road. A sheriff's deputy parked in a white sedan at the end of Williams' long, dusty driveway shooed away journalists and gawkers.
Williams' ranch-style home is on several acres about 15 miles east of Lakeland, with a sprawling fenced pasture where his horses munched grass throughout the day. The home is about a mile from Polk Correctional Institution and is in the heart of an area that many law enforcement officers call home. Neighbors said they were comforted when they saw Williams come home in his patrol car, usually signaled by the sounds of the family's many barking dogs, including two retired K-9 partners.
"We just felt so safe knowing he was there," said Kathy Hanks, who has been Williams' neighbor for 12 years. "You'd look at him and your heart would fill up. Matt is one of the best people you'd ever want to know."
Never A Party Without Dogs
Williams coached baseball and could be counted on to buy several boxes of candy bars from the local Scouts. He helped his son Chris tinker with a finicky Chevrolet Blazer.
"He was just one of the most helpful people you'd ever want to know," said Willy Abercrombie, who served with Williams in the Winter Haven Masonic Lodge #186.
Williams hosted large barbecues to celebrate holidays and special occasions. But at the Williams house, it was never a party without dogs.
Williams joined the sheriff's office in 1994 and the K-9 unit in 2000. Neighbors said Williams was never far from Diogi.
"He was an excellent dog handler; he just loved those dogs," said Lloyd O'Quinn, a close friend and K-9 handler with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
Diogi will be cremated, and his remains will be buried with Williams.
Williams leaves his wife and three children, Christopher Matthew, 19, and twins Jimmy Allen and Amanda Rochelle, 16.
Editor David Nicholson contributed to this report. Reporter Baird Helgeson can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 259-7668.
People wishing to make donations to the Matt Williams Family Trust Fund can do so in the following ways:
Go to any Wachovia Bank branch in Polk County and make a donation to the 'Matt Williams Family Trust Fund.' Mail your donation check, made out to the 'Matt Williams Family Trust Fund,' to:
c/o Marilyn Watson
203 Avenue A
Winter Haven, FL 33881
Thousands mourn slain Fla. Deputy
By PHIL DAVIS, Associated Press Writer
LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) - A sheriff's deputy gunned down last week after a routine traffic stop was remembered Tuesday as an avid fisherman, doting father and a gifted dog handler.
The memorial service for Polk County Deputy Vernon Matthew Williams, 39, who was fatally shot along with his police dog, drew thousands, including officers from as far away as Rhode Island.
Officers stood at attention in neat rows as the casket bearing Williams' body and the cremated remains of his German shepherd police dog Diogi were carried from Victory Church in Lakeland. Both will be buried together at the Auburndale Memorial Cemetery.
"Please don't mistake our tears of grief today for weakness," Sheriff Grady Judd said. "The tears you see here are of frustration."
Williams' wife, Nancy, and his three children, 19-year-old Christopher and 16-year-old twins Jimmy and Amanda, huddled together in the front row of the church.
Williams was killed last week after a traffic stop. Deputy Doug Speirs had pulled a man over for speeding and became suspicious of his identification, authorities said. The man got nervous and bolted into the woods, according to the sheriff.
Speirs called for backup. Williams arrived and they began tracking the motorist into the woods. The man fired on them, killing Williams and the dog, authorities said. Speirs was shot in the leg, but survived.
The shootings prompted a massive manhunt with more than 500 officers. It ended about 24 hours later when a SWAT team fatally shot the suspect, later identified as 27-year-old Angilo Freeland.
Please visit this link for a Tribute to Matt Williams and Diogi