On September 28, 2006, Angilo Freeland, 27, a suspected drug dealer, fled from Polk County, Florida, police after he was pulled over in a routine traffic stop by Deputy Douglas Speirs. The deputy called for backup and Deputy Vernon Matthew Williams answered the call with his police dog DiOGi.
As they followed the suspect into the woods there was a "burst of gunfire" and Deputy Williams, a father of three, and his dog were killed and Speirs was wounded in the leg. An autopsy report revealed that Williams, 39, was shot eight times. He was shot once a close range behind his right ear and again in his right temple. Officers also noted that Williams' gun and ammunition were missing.
After a massive manhunt for the fugitive through the night, a SWAT team surrounded Freeland in a thickly wooded area hiding under a fallen tree. When he failed to show the officers both hands and they spotted a handgun in one of his hands, they opened fire. Freeland's autopsy showed that he was shot 68 times. An investigation of the scene revealed that police fired 110 rounds.
"That's all the bullets we had, or we would have shot him more," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters.
Who Was Angilo Freeland?
Investigators later learned through Freeland's hand-written journals found in a search of his home and interviews with family members, that he was an alleged drug smuggler who often traveled throughout Jamaica and South and Central America.
Born December 25, 1978, in a West Indies island of Antigua, Freeland shared many Rastafarian religious and political beliefs. He was a skilled survivalist with hand-to-hand combat and had extensive weaponry training. Through using several aliases he managed to come and go out of the U.S. at will.
On April 24, 1999, Freeland was arrested after refusing to show his hands during a traffic stop within miles of where the 2006 deadly incident took place.
According to arrest reports, Freeland was pulled over for speeding by the Florida Highway Patrol. After refusing to show his hands, he fled the scene, and then later ditched his truck and took off on foot.
When the troopers searched the truck Freeland had abandoned, they found a loaded .380-caliber handgun and a pawn shop receipt that led them to where Freeland lived. He was arrested on charges of not having a valid driver's license, reckless driving, aggravated fleeing to elude, resisting arrest without violence, and carrying a concealed weapon.
Freeland was released on bail, but failed to show up for his trial. A warrant was issued, but authorities were unable to locate him and in 2005 it was deemed "stale" and the case was dropped by the state attorney's office.
An investigation into Freeland's suspected drug trafficking activity in Florida led to a task force made up of federal, state and local-law-enforcement drug agencies. The investigation called "Operation Sea-O-Pea" a.k.a. Diogi's Revenge uncovered a drug and weapons connection between Latin America and Florida.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, informants told investigators that Freeland acted as the "enforcer" of a drug-trafficking ring that dealt in cocaine, cannabis and weapons. He was the alleged ring's hit man and suspected of killing up to 15 people who might have been informers or owed money.
The investigation resulted in 10 arrests and the confiscation of six firearms, $500 in counterfeit US currency, and approximately 3.5 pounds of cannabis along with information about two unsolved homicide cases in Orange County, Florida.
FBI Investigation Into the Shooting
In November 2006, the Department of Justice (DoJ) requested that the FBI investigate the conduct of the authorities involved in the shooting after the Florida Civil Rights Association filed a complaint stating that the incident showed extreme force and a disregard for human life.
In June 2008, the DoJ announced that the Polk County Sheriff's Office was cleared of any wrongdoing and that the investigation was closed.