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Blane Lee Lane, 21, achieved in death what he had hoped to earn in a lifelong career with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office: He was promoted to the rank of sheriff by his hero, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Lane was killed in the line of duty a week ago, accidentally shot by a fellow deputy when four of them went to a home in rural northern Polk County to arrest a woman wanted on a felony warrant for failure to appear in court on felony drug charges.
“Let us not be a dark burden unto Deputy Sheriff Lane’s memory, but rather a bright light in the morning sun, telling all that Deputy Sheriff Blane Lane lived his dream for his entire life,” Judd told about 1,000 mourners at Lane’s funeral at Victory Church Tuesday morning. “Now to complete Deputy Sheriff Lane’s faraway dream that Blane can’t attain on his own, I am going to promote Deputy Sheriff Blane Lane to honorary sheriff for all eternity … Rest well, Sheriff Lane.”
Judd said the wanted woman – 46-year-old Cheryl Williams — pointed a BB pistol, which looks identical to a 9 mm handgun, at two deputies searching a mobile home for her. The deputies immediately shot her, and one of the approximately six bullets they fired pierced the mobile home’s wall, hitting Lane in the shoulder. He died at Lakeland Regional Medical Center as a trauma team worked on him, the bullet lodged in his chest.
Judd told hundreds of uniformed officers from throughout the state, who gathered at the church, that the blame for Lane’s death was Williams’ alone and called her “an evil person filled with the devil.”
Elected officials lining a front pew included Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, and Florida Reps. Sam Killebrew and Josie Tomkow. School Board member-elect Justin Sharpless, who knew Lane, also attended.
Lane’s family listened as Judd euologized him and then several took turns sharing their happiest – and funniest — memories of him. Lane is survived by his 3-year-old daughter, Kate Lane; a boy the family calls Lane’s “son by love,” Trace “Timmy” Wood; parents, Shellie and Wayne Lane; sister, Maddix Lane; grandparents, Darrel and Debbie Sodders, Kathy Stader, Elizabeth and Charlie Jones; his cousin and best friend, Brady Patisaul; and extended family and many friends.
Many in his family talked about how, as a boy, Lane loved to play cops and robbers, including arresting and handcuffing his little sister and cousins. Once when his sister told him it hurt, he said, “Well, then stop resisting,” Judd said.
Maddix Lane said she and her brother didn’t always see eye-to-eye, mainly because he liked to be the boss of her. She said they used to use cardboard boxes to make garages for their cop cars.
“One time, Blane was aggravating me, trying to bite me, so the only black eye Blane ever had was from me when I kicked him in the face. He was so mad,” Maddix recalled to the chuckles of the crowd. “I am forever grateful that I got to be his little sister. I love you always, Blane.”
Darrel Sodders, his grandfather, said Lane didn’t always want to be the next Grady Judd.
“When he was 2 years old, he wanted to be a bull rider. Of course I was the bull. We spent so many hours on my hands and knees and him on my back. We would watch bull riding on TV and I knew what followed — that I had to saddle up,” Sodders said. “Then a few years later, he met Sheriff Grady Judd. That changed his mind of what he wanted to become. He wanted to be a Polk County deputy. From then until now, he had one goal and that was to be a Polk County deputy.”
The family told Judd this week that Lane studied him, listening to his press conferences and quoting him. Lane even made his mother drive by Judd’s former home on Harrell’s Nursery Road “over and over and over.”
Lane graduated from Mulberry High School in 2020 and Polk State College’s dual law enforcement-detention academy program, and was hired as a detention deputy in May 2021. He became a deputy sheriff in January, right around the time of his 21st birthday, and was assigned to Northwest District Patrol. He lived in Fort Meade.
Judd said Deputy Preston Davis was Lane’s school resource deputy, adding that Lane talked with Davis every week about Judd and about the sheriff’s office. One day, Blane asked Davis if he had ever been in a shooting, and if he was scared.
“He asked Blane, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And Blane said, ‘Absolutely.’ And Preston told Blane, ‘We know the dangers of this job going in. The apostle Paul said to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of God and we can’t add a minute to our lives by worrying,’” Judd said. “Preston said, ‘I know where my soul is going. I don’t see death.’ And then Preston asked Blane, ‘What about you?’ And he got a high school kid’s response – ‘I’m not scared of nothing – I’m like Grady Judd.’”
Sodders said Lane also dreamed of driving one of the PCSO Dodge Chargers patrol vehicles, which came true earlier this year. But Judd said one rainy night, Lane wrecked his patrol car. He thought for sure he was going to get fired because he was a new deputy and still on probation. Instead, he was handed the keys to a beat-up Chevy Impala and given the nickname “Hydroplane Lane.”
Sodders recalled a week ago, the last time he saw his grandson as Lane was heading out the door to go to work just hours before he died.
“The day he went to work, he come around the (kitchen) island and hugged us, said he loved us,” Sodders said. “He started out the door. He has never — he never does this. He stopped to turn around and come back and he said, ‘I really love you.’ And that’s the last words we heard him say.”
Sodders said his grandson just wanted to help people and make the world better.
“If his death changed anyone’s life, become a better person, he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish,” Sodders said. “I hope his passion has inspired everyone that has been in touch with him in his life and in his death. I know that I will never get over this. I love him so much. My heart is shattered. I hope the memory of Blane Lane will go forever.”
At the end of the service, all uniformed officers lined up on the lawn in front of the church and waited for DeSantis to pay his respects to the family in private, with one officer in full dress uniform passing out in the 88-degree heat.
The family then gathered under a tent as Lane’s casket was wheeled in front of them. Seven helicopters flew over, with one peeling away from the group in a missing-man formation. Bagpipers played Amazing Grace, a riderless horse was led in front of them, riflemen fired three rounds, and a loudspeaker broadcast a final call for Lane’s badge number – 9228 – calling out for him three times.
As a PCSO dispatcher repeated the number, a woman in Lane’s family could be heard wailing, joined by a man.
“Polk County Sheriff’s Office to all units and listening stations. Be advised that 9228, Deputy Sheriff Blane Lee Lane, an honored and loved member of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, died in the line of duty on Tuesday, October 4th, 2022. He is now 10-87 (ending tour of duty) for the final time and will be forever remembered,” the dispatcher said.
The flag atop his coffin was slowly folded into a triangle and handed to Judd, who presented it to Lane’s mother. The casket was then wheeled by deputy pallbearers to the waiting white hearse and placed inside.
All along the route to the cemetery, people waited on sidewalks and in parking lots for the funeral procession to pass by. Officers stopped traffic on the northbound side of U.S. 98 and cleared the road on the southbound side.
“We do this with all the fallen officers,” said Jennae Burdick, 40, an employee with Lakeland Funeral Home and Memorial Garden. All of the employees gathered in the driveway or at the door, placing their hands on their hearts as at least 80 motorcycle officers preceded the hearse down the highway, followed by two limousines with family, Judd’s black SUV, the family’s cars and then a long line of law enforcement cars.
A private graveside service was held at Oak Hill Cemetery in Highland City.
Williams is charged with second-degree murder along with:
- Three counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, a second-degree felony
- Three counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a second-degree felony
- Three counts of resisting arrest, a second-degree felony
- Two counts of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, a second-degree felony
- Possession of methamphetamine, a third-degree felony
She is a convicted felon who spent nine years in prison — out of an 11-year sentence — for trafficking in methamphetamine. She remains a patient under 24-hour guard at Lakeland Regional Medical Center in stable condition with at least two gunshot wounds.
Videos of the ceremonies
Kimberly C. Moore is an award-winning reporter and a Lakeland native. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-272-9250.
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