Suspect named in Lanier County shootout

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LAKELAND — The suspect in a Wednesday shooting incident in Lanier County, who is also wanted in connection with a Florida homicide case, faces numerous felony charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

William “Billy” Welland Jr., 37, was charged late last week, according to the GBI. Welland is charged with aggravated assault, two counts of home invasion, two counts of theft by taking, burglary, aggravated animal cruelty and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, according to the GBI. 

"These arrest warrants are related to the home invasions that occurred on Old Stockton Road and Crisp School Road," according to a GBI statement. "The investigation is still ongoing at this time."

Welland was recovering from gunshot wounds late last week in South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta, according to a GBI statement.

At 11:50 a.m. Wednesday, the Lanier County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to Old Stockton Road in Lakeland on a home invasion call where the homeowner was shot and an unsuccessful attempt was made to steal his vehicle.

The suspect was driving a car reported stolen from Tampa, Fla., which belonged to a homicide victim, Tampa police said.

The suspect drove to a home on Crisp School Road, entered another home and stole a minivan, the GBI said.

Deputies spotted him and tried to make a traffic stop; the suspect led officers on a short chase before pulling behind a home on Ga. 122 East, getting out and running.

The suspect pointed firearms at the deputies and gunfire was exchanged, the GBI statement said.

One deputy, a woman who was working her first day with the sheriff’s office, was grazed by a bullet and was treated and released from the SGMC Lanier campus. The suspect was shot multiple times, according to the statement.

The homeowner who was shot was being treated at the Valdosta hospital Wednesday, the GBI said.

Welland is wanted in connection with a Tuesday homicide in Tampa after police found a man dead in the garage bay of an auto body shop, Tampa police said. Detectives were heading up to Lanier County to continue the homicide investigation.

Police said the Tampa homicide “does not appear to have been a random event.”

Welland was on probation in Florida on charges of robbery with a gun or deadly weapon, Florida prison records show.

The Lanier case marked the 55th officer-involved shooting the bureau has investigated this year.

Anyone with information about the Lanier County incident should contact the Lanier County Sheriff’s Office (229) 482-3545 or the GBI Douglas office (912) 389-4103.

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.

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