Deputy Vernon Matthew "Matt" Williams & K9 DiOGi
End of Watch: September 28, 2006
On Thursday September 28, 2006 at 11:45 a.m., Deputy Sheriff Matt Williams and his K9 partner "DiOGi" responded to 10th Street and Wabash to assist Deputy Douglas Speirs after a suspect fled on foot into a wooded area from a traffic stop. Deputy Williams deployed his K9 partner "DiOGi" into the dense brush from the scene and began trailing the suspect deeper into the woods near a creek. Matt was alone with DiOGi at this time when the suspect was located. Although details are still hazy, the suspect is believed to have been hiding in the hole created by a downed tree and produced his own handgun, firing on and killing DiOGi as the K9 engaged the suspect. The suspect immediately continued the attack firing on and striking Matt eight times. The suspect ambushed and viciously murdered Matt without mercy. Deputy Speirs was also shot and wounded in the leg. The suspect removed Deputy William’s pistol and magazines and fled deeper into the woods, emerging a short time later behind a house. The suspect engaged in a shootout with Lakeland Police Officers and once again fled into the same dense brush. Polk County K9 handlers responded after Deputy Williams did not respond on the radio and initiated a search into the woods for Matt. He was located by Polk County K9 teams who entered with full knowledge of the armed suspect hidden within. They located their fallen brother and brought him back out, but sadly Matt was already deceased.
Tactical, SWAT and K9 teams from all agencies surrounding Polk County responded immediately. A seamless perimeter around the area was put into place with hundreds of law enforcement officers. As dark fell, the perimeter remained and Helicopter FLIR searches tracked small movements of the suspect throughout the night as he remained pinned within the woods. At daybreak, on Friday September 29, nearly 500 officers responded from around the State of Florida to assist in the manhunt to bring the killer to justice. At approximately 9:50 a.m., as SWAT teams moved in a line combing through the area, the killer was spotted burrowed underneath a fallen tree. He refused to surrender and concealed under a cloth, he held Deputy William’s service pistol, bringing it to bear on the officers. The killer was pronounced dead at the scene.
Deputy Vernon Matthew Williams, better known as "Matt", was a Deputy Sheriff for Polk County since 1994, serving in the capacity of K9 handler for the past 8 years. Deputy Williams was revered as the Head Trainer of the Polk County K9 Unit. Deputy Matt Williams is remembered as the light hearted prankster that was always saw the good in people. He was the handler that everyone called to bounce off scenarios and determine a better way to deploy or just to feel better about the efforts put forth. His enthusiasm was contagious and motivational to all around him. He always said, "As long as I get up in the morning and I see my patrol car still says 'CAUTION K9', I know it's going to be a good day."
Deputy Williams and K9 "DiOGi" (pronounced Dee-oh-gee) or "DOG with two 'lil I's" as Matt always said, made the ultimate sacrifice for the community they were sworn to protect. The K9 team was testament to the ideal of "attitude runs down lead, performance runs up lead." Deputy "Matt" Williams will forever be the exemplary Handler we shall strive to be and "DiOGi" the K9 partner we will compare our own to.