POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A 30-year old Lakeland man faces multiple charges after he attempted to start a house fire in Lakeland and then led deputies on a chase that made its way onto Interstate 4, closing parts of the highway on Sunday, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Judd said at a press conference that Polk County deputies responded to a 911 call around 8:11 a.m. in a north Lakeland neighborhood about a man that was throwing a “Molotov cocktail” incendiary weapon at a residence.
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When a deputy arrived at the residence, he witnessed a man – later identified as 30-year-old Luke Neely – getting into an older model Chevrolet pickup truck and leave the scene, according to a press release later sent by the sheriff’s department.
The deputy attempted a traffic stop, but Neely did not pull over and drove south on U.S. Highway 98, deputies said.
Sheriff Judd said that the deputy then attempted a precision immobilization technique – or PIT maneuver – on the truck, but was not successful and Neely proceeded to drive onto westbound Interstate 4.
Deputies said they were able to block and end the pursuit in the area of the west bound on-ramp to Interstate 4 from Branch Forbes Road in Hillsborough County after ramming the truck.
Sheriff Judd said that Neely exited the truck carrying an AR-15 that was fully loaded and also had a fully loaded handgun on his hip.
Deputies said that they engaged Neely and fired at him, “incapacitating him”.
According to Sheriff Judd, three Polk County deputies fired shots at Neely, hitting him multiple times. Judd said that Neely was shot twice in the right leg, once in the left leg and once in the groin.
“We’ve changed the looks of his groin forever, if you know what I mean,” Judd later said at his press conference.
Neely was transported to a local hospital for treatment for gunshot wounds that were non-life-threatening, according to the release.
“We are in the early stages of this investigation. We thank the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for independently investigating this use of force and we appreciate the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office assistance with the scene investigation. One of our deputies sustained a wrist injury, but other than that, the only person who was injured is the arsonist who fled from our deputies and threatened them. For this I am very thankful,” Sheriff Judd said in the statement.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigating the deputy involved use of force because the incident occurred in Hillsborough County, the press release stated.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office crime scene unit is assisting with the investigation at the scene.
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