Just before 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, four Polk County Sheriff‘s deputies drove up to a weather-beaten mobile home off Foxtown South Road in a rural area west of Polk City with an arrest warrant for 46-year-old Cheryl Williams for failure to appear on felony charges of possession of methamphetamine.
They had gotten a tip at about 2 a.m. from CrimeStoppers that Williams, who had previously spent nine years in prison for trafficking meth, could be found there.
The following is what happened next, according to an account given by Polk Sheriff Grady Judd at a news conference this afternoon.
Williams saw the car lights coming up the short dirt drive and grabbed a silver pistol.
“You don’t want do that,” said a man who was with Williams. He later recalled the conversation with detectives.
“Let them in,” she replied.
The deputies, dressed in their green Polk County Sheriff’s uniforms, carefully walked to the front door inside a screened-in porch and encountered a man waiting there. They asked him if Williams was home. He said she was at the back door. Three deputies walked to the back of the house, where another man at the back door said she was inside and invited them in.
Neither man ever mentioned to deputies that Williams had a pistol.
Deputy Blane Lane, 21, remained outside, watching the front door in case Williams ran out. As he was trained to do, he took up a tactical position where he could see the door and a set of windows, but also take cover behind a refrigerator on the front porch if a shootout began.
Sergeant Michael Brooks, a supervisor, and Deputies Johnny Holsonback III and Adam Pennell began searching the house, walking through what Judd described as a maze as they went from room to room. A Bible open to 2 Kings, Chapters 20 and 21, a light beer and a meth pipe were lying on one bed.
Finally, Williams stepped out of her hiding place in what Judd described as a game room and pointed the silver handgun at Holsonback and Brooks. Both men pulled out their service pistols and fired. Judd said they possibly shot six bullets. Williams was hit at least twice.
But outside the house, Lane grabbed his left shoulder and stepped out from his tactical position. He went down to a knee.
“I’m hit,” Lane told the man standing outside the front door.
One bullet fired by one of the deputies went through the thin metal wall of the mobile home and struck Lane in the shoulder. He was rushed to Lakeland Regional Medical Center and, at first, they thought he would survive – all his vital signs were good. But Lane died on the gurney as the trauma team was working on him – the bullet had gone into his chest.
“What’s the statistical probabilities that the conflict would be directly beside where he was standing?” Judd asked at the afternoon news conference.
“Had he literally been standing three inches in or three inches back, the round wouldn’t have…” Judd’s voice trailed off. “But he wasn’t. All of this breaks our heart.”
Judd placed the blame for the shooting squarely on Williams’ shoulders, saying she had a chance to appear in court, as she was ordered to do. She had a chance to turn herself in at any time after a bench warrant was issued for her failure to appear. And she had the chance to peacefully surrender to one of the four deputies at the Foxtown South mobile home Tuesday morning.
Instead, she pointed what turned out to be a BB pistol at deputies and is in the hospital in stable condition, handcuffed to her bed with a guard outside her door.
Cheryl Lynn Williams, left. Her weapon turned out to be a realistic-looking BB gun, Judd said.
Lane’s body was slowly driven at about 9 a.m. in a procession of law enforcement vehicles from the hospital to the medical examiner’s office, where he underwent an autopsy.
“She’s going to be charged with, among other charges, second-degree felony murder,” Judd said. “It’s our goal to see that she’s incarcerated for the rest of her natural life. She knew exactly who they were. I’m convinced she wanted to force the deputies to shoot.”
Judd said she either wanted to engage in a shootout or die by suicide by cop.
Deputy Lane is a 2020 graduate of Mulberry High School, where teachers described him as larger than life on campus, someone you knew or knew of, someone who was always making people laugh. He played football and golf.
Mulberry High’s Kevin Wells was Lane’s football coach.
“He was a charismatic type of kid, a nice, enjoyable young man,” Wells said. “He just wanted to be the life of everything happening around here.”
Principal Michael Young said Lane was an upstanding young man.
“He was full of life — always had a bright smile and was friendly and respectful, had lots of friends,” said Young, adding that it was well known at Mulberry that Lane dreamed of becoming a deputy, and was working hard toward that goal. “He was somebody you would root for. He was one of those kids you really wanted to succeed.”
Scott Lake Elementary School officials posted a picture on its Facebook page of Lane as a fifth grader, a 10-year-old. Underneath the photo, he listed his hobby as hunting and his aspiration: “Become a Polk County Sheriff.”
Newly elected School Board member Justin Sharpless and his wife Emilyn knew Lane.
“While I’m proud of the man and law enforcement officer Blane became, it’s not how I will remember him,” Sharpless wrote on Facebook. “I will always remember the Mulberry Middle FFA member in his blue corduroy jacket. The Student Advisor saying his opening and closing ceremonies part. The kid that my wife loves dearly as his agriculture teacher. How excited he was when I told him I knew his grandfather Bobby Lane. I know Bobby was there with outstretched arms this morning when Blane entered the pearly gates. RIP Blane. You will be missed by Emilyn, myself and many others!”
His goal, Judd said, was to rise through the ranks and become the sheriff one day.
“He was living his dream and certainly he was immensely talented,” Judd said. “He was eager. He was brilliant. He absorbed information like a sponge. And he was careful when he did his job … I see a colleague younger than my children. This is like losing one of your kids. Outside of my wife and my children and grandchildren, I love these folks more than anything.”
Judd said Lane entered the Polk State College KCTIPS dual law enforcement-detention academy in September 2020, graduated, and was hired as a detention deputy in May 2021. He became a deputy sheriff in January 2022, and was assigned to Northwest District Patrol. He lived in Fort Meade, according to a Polk Sheriff’s Office news release.
His law enforcement Academy classmate and current PCSO Deputy Dedric Brinson called him a great friend with a bright future.
“This kid use to share his story on how he wanted to become a Deputy Sheriff since he was five years old,” Brinson said. “I witnessed him become the best deputy during his time of service.”
Judd said deputies arrest people on outstanding warrants all day and all night every day. They went to the home at 2:30 a.m. because they had gotten a tip that she was there at that time. And, he said, it is protocol to send back-up deputies – as many as they have available. He said anyone questioning the time of day deputies went to arrest her were “morons.”
“She was running from us. She’s always run from us,” Judd said. “We’re going to arrest you at 2, 3, 4, 5 (a.m.).”
Lane’s funeral, with full law enforcement honors, will be scheduled for some time next week. He leaves behind a 3-year-old daughter, his parents, Wayne and Shellie Lane, and his extended family.
“He’s the epitome of what American law enforcement is about, young men and young women who stand in the gap and put their lives on the line every day,” Judd said.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has created a secure credit card donation portal through its website for a memorial fund for Blane: https://www.polksheriff.org/donate – in the dropdown menu, select “In Memory of Deputy Sheriff Blane Lane.”
For those wishing to donate using a check, it can be made out to Polk Sheriff’s Charities, Inc. with a note on the memo line of the check that it is designated for the family of Blane Lane. Checks can be mailed to:
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
1891 Jim Keene Boulevard
Winter Haven, Florida 33880
Messages and card for the family can be sent to the above address as well.
Kimberly C. Moore is an award-winning reporter and a Lakeland native. She can be reached at email@example.com or 863-272-9250.
SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: firstname.lastname@example.org