Florida homicide suspect caught in south Georgia after shootout with deputies

Florida homicide suspect apprehended in Georgia after shootout with police

LAKELAND, Ga. — A Florida man suspected in a homicide was arrested in south Georgia after he was wounded in a shootout with deputies, authorities said.

William “Billy” Welland, 37, of Tampa, was apprehended Wednesday in Lanier County, northeast of Valdosta, the Tampa Bay Times and Valdosta Daily Times reported.

Welland was wounded after an exchange of gunfire with deputies. One deputy, working her first shift with the Lanier County Sheriff’s Office, was grazed with a bullet, the Daily Times reported.

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Authorities in Tampa were seeking Welland, who is accused of killing a 29-year-old man Tuesday at an auto body shop, the Times reported.

Investigators said Welland was driving the victim’s black Audi in Georgia, WTSP reported. A report of a home invasion around noon Wednesday in Lakeland, Georgia, led deputies to follow Welland, Lanier County Sheriff Nick Norton told the Daily Times.

A man was shot during the home invasion and was taken to a Valdosta hospital, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a news release. Norton said Welland led deputies on a chase and crashed the Audi before stealing a minivan.

The chase ended in northeastern Lanier County, and Welland opened fire on deputies, the Daily Times reported.

“It was then that one of our deputies was hit,” Norton told the newspaper.

Welland was shot multiple times and was being treated at a Valdosta hospital Thursday, the GBI said in its news release. Tampa police detectives headed to Georgia to continue their homicide investigation, according to the Times.

The deputy who was grazed under her arm also was treated at a Valdosta hospital and was later released. She had previously worked with the Adel Police Department, Norton said.

“She was riding with a seasoned sergeant, learning her way around the county,” the sheriff told the Daily Times.

Welland was released from prison in February after serving 10 years for robberies that occurred in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the Times reported. He is on supervised release until 2025, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.

Welland has been arrested several times in Hillsborough County on robbery charges and cocaine possession, the Times reported.