Red shoes helps detectives connect 2 Polk convenience store robberies, deputies say

Antonio Welch, 42, accused of robbing, assaulting store clerks

Antonio Welch, 42.
Antonio Welch, 42. (WKMG 2021)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A suspected robber was arrested in Lakeland Saturday and using the suspect’s footwear, detectives were able to connect him to a similar crime that happened days earlier.

Lakeland police were flagged down by a citizen Saturday at 10:23 p.m. letting them know a store employee at the 7-Eleven store on South Florida Avenue was in distress. Police said they arrived and found Antonio Welch, 42, armed with a knife, behind the store counter on top of the store clerk.

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Welch was arrested and Polk County deputies in the area heard the suspect’s description, notably his red shoes with white soles, and believed he matched the description of another robbery that happened at a Kangaroo convenience store on Feb. 9.

Lakeland police and Polk County deputies spoke with Welch and he admitted to both robberies and assaulting clerks at both stores, according to a news release.

“The cooperation and swift response by every agency in our county is what makes Polk one of the safest places to live in Florida. We’re especially grateful to the citizen who saw something and said something,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “This dangerous, violent felon was caught before he could commit any more violent crimes, and hopefully he will go to prison for a very long time.”

Welch now faces charges from both law enforcement agencies. From Lakeland police he is charged with armed robbery, false imprisonment, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, cocaine possession and paraphernalia possession.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has charged Welch with armed robbery and armed burglary with assault.