Polk City, FL – Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Deputy Blane Lane was fatally shot in the line of duty early Tuesday morning while trying to apprehend a fugitive.
The series of events leading to the 21-year-old deputy’s death began at approximately 2:07 a.m. on Oct. 4, then the PCSO received a tip that deputies could find 46-year-old wanted fugitive Cheryl Williams at a trailer home located on Foxtown South, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Williams, who had 11 prior felony arrests and four prior misdemeanor arrests, had previously been sentenced to 11 years in prison for methamphetamine trafficking, the sheriff noted.
She served more than nine years behind bars.
Williams allegedly failed to appear in court on another felony charge for methamphetamine possession, resulting in the felony warrant for her arrest being issued, he said.
“She’s a cranker,” Sheriff Judd told reporters. “She had a failure to appear warrant – a felony warrant – for possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia.”
PCSO Sergeant Michael Brooks responded to the residence with PCSO Deputy Lane, Deputy Adam Pennell, and Deputy Johnny Holsonback at approximately 3:08 a.m.
They approached a man who was standing outside the front of the home and were told Williams was in the backyard, so Deputy Lane took up a “tactical position” in front of the house in the event the suspect tried to flee the scene while his fellow deputies approached the back door, Sheriff Judd said.
The other three deputies made contact with a second man at the back door who confirmed Williams was there and invited them inside, according to the sheriff.
They headed inside as Deputy Lane continued to watch the front door and windows from a concealed position in front of the house.
Sheriff Judd described the mobile home as “kind of a maze,” and noted that the deputies who entered the house initially had no idea where Williams was located.
They were clearing the residence when Williams suddenly stepped into their view “holding a firearm and pointing it directly at the deputies,” the sheriff said.
Sgt. Brooks and Deputy Holsonback both fired their duty weapons, hitting Williams twice before she collapsed to the floor.
Deputy Lane, who was still outside in front of the house, then yelled out that he had been shot.
The wounded hero was rushed to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with what was believed to be a gunshot wound to the arm and everyone initially thought he would be okay, Sheriff Judd said.
“When we get to the hospital and we’re treating Deputy Lane, we learned that the shot that went into the shoulder went into the chest cavity,” he told reporters.
Deputy Lane died as a result of his injuries.
Williams was also transported to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and remained under arrest and under security at the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
She has been charged with second-degree felony murder, among other offenses, Sheriff Judd said.
Investigators later determined the firearm Williams allegedly pointed at the deputies during the confrontation was a BB gun.
They also allegedly located a methamphetamine pipe that had been placed on a bed next to an open Bible with an opened can of beer sitting nearby, according to the sheriff.
A male witness told detectives after the shooting that Williams had picked up the weapon and headed to another room when the deputies showed up, Sheriff Judd said.
The witness said he told her not to do that, but that she told him to “let them in,” according to the sheriff.
“She clearly and unequivocally wanted to put us into a gunfight with her” or was looking to commit “suicide by cop,” he told reporters. “She knew exactly who they were.”
Sheriff Judd noted that Deputy Lane had taken a “very sound, secure cover position” and had no idea where his fellow deputies were located inside the home.
The deputies inside had no idea where they might encounter Williams inside the house.
The conflict ended up taking place directly next to the location where Deputy Lane was positioned, with an exterior wall standing between them.
The round that hit Deputy Lane was fired by one of his fellow deputies and traveled through the exterior wall.
Had he been positioned three inches forward or backwards, the round would have missed him, Sheriff Judd said.
The sheriff said the surviving deputies “are absolutely devastated” by the tragic series of events.
“These folks depend on each other for their very lives every day,” he added.
Deputy Lane entered the law enforcement academy in September of 2020 and was sworn in as a PCSO detention deputy in May of 2021.
He was transferred to patrol as a deputy in January.
“He was a great deputy,” Sheriff Judd said. “He was eager, he was brilliant, he learned, he absorbed information like a sponge, and he was careful when he did his job.”
The sheriff said the young deputy, the father of a three-and-one-half-year-old child, was loved and admired by all who knew him.
“Words can’t adequately explain the absolute grief we feel,” he said, “but it is our job to be our best at the very worst of times.”
Together Church Pastor Justin Stewart described Deputy Lane as “a people magnet,” Bay News 9 reported.
“Nobody is a stranger to him,” Stewart said. “He makes an impact on people’s lives within the first few minutes that you meet him. You feel like you’ve known him forever, and I think that’s what has made the biggest impact on everyone. And I think that’s why the family is so crushed. It’s a massive, massive loss for them.”
The pastor said Deputy Lane had two heroes in his life – his grandfather and Sheriff Judd, Bay News 9 reported.
“His biggest quote to me was that one day, he was going to be the next Grady Judd,” Stewart recalled.
Not only was Deputy Lane a devoted public servant, he was also a devoted father to his young daughter.
“When he had his daughter here in church, I don’t think that I ever saw him without her in his arms,” Stewart told Bay News 9.
The young deputy’s high school football coach, Kevin Wells, said Deputy Lane decided early on that he was going to become a law enforcement officer, The Ledger reported.
“Blane was doing what he always wanted to do. He wanted to be a cop. He wanted to work for Polk County Sheriff’s Office — he was doing it. He was living his dream,” Wells said. “He always said he wanted to be the next Grady Judd.”
It’s been a heartbreaking few weeks for law enforcement in #TampBay. Deputy Blane Lane, 21, seen here with @PolkCoSheriff on the day he was sworn in eight months ago, was fatally shot this morning while serving a warrant in #PolkCity. @BN9 #bn9polk pic.twitter.com/ElsI77t9ur
— Sarah Blazonis (@SarahBlazonis) October 4, 2022
🔹 Blessed Are The Peacemakers 🔹
Deputy Sheriff Blane Lane
Polk County Sheriff's Office, Florida
— National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) (@GLFOP) October 4, 2022
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends & co-workers of Deputy Sheriff Blane Lane, from @PolkCoSheriff, who was shot and killed yesterday while trying to apprehend a wanted individual. He was just 21 years old and leaves behind a 3-year-old child. #FidelisAdMortem pic.twitter.com/zMGTgNpicw
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) October 5, 2022
— Brittany Muller (@WFLABrittany) October 4, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Polk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Blane Lane, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Deputy Blane Lane, your life mattered.