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Fallen Heroes

In Memory of Our Fallen Heroes

Polk County Sheriff's Office and contract cities

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man may lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Oliver Thomas Smith
January 16, 1922

Deputy Smith was shot and killed at approximately 11:30 PM on January 16, 1922, in the vicinity of Hartzog Sawmill in the former Nalaca, Fla. (east of Frostproof).

According to early newspaper accounts, E. Godbolt was being sought by Deputy Smith, for an attempt earlier in the day to shoot E. Hartzog, a foreman at the sawmill. The confrontation between the two men had been over an account.

It was on this charge that Deputy Smith attempted to place Godbolt under arrest when he was fatally wounded. Godbolt escaped into the woods and remained there for several days before giving himself up to authorities.

Deputy Smith was 29 years old at the time of his death.

J. Edward Harrelson
December 21, 1926

On December 21, 1926, at approximately 9:00 AM, Deputy Harrelson was shot by two armed robbery suspects who he had encountered after they had robbed a store north of Lakeland.

Reportedly, Deputy Harrelson's father and brother fired upon the suspects as they were fleeing on foot. Deputy Harrelson then was transported to Lakeland General Hospital where he died as the result of the gunshot wounds.

Deputy Harrelson was 35 years of age at the time of his death.

harrelson black and white

Frank Dixon 
September 22, 1932

Constable Dixon was shot and killed on September 22, 1932, in a wooded area while investigating "moonshiners" violating liquor laws.

Myrle A. Whidden
Polk District 18
April 9, 1936

On Thursday April 9th, 1936, an unarmed Constable Myrle A. Whidden responded to the Thorton residence in Mulberry, FL to resolve a dispute between a drunken Mose D. Herrin and his estranged wife. Once on scene, Constable Whidden attempted to stop the attack on Mrs. Herrin in a bathroom. During the altercation, Whidden was shot once in his left arm and then again in his chest by .32 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver. Even though he was severely injured and unarmed, Constable Whidden overpowered Herrin, subdued the suspect with his own weapon, and transported him to the Mulberry Police Chief.

Two days later, on his 42nd birthday, Constable Whidden succumbed to his injuries. Herrin was found guilty of first degree murder.

Officer Paschal Pat Brown
Fort Meade Police Department
May 10, 1936

On May 10, 1936,Officer Paschal Pat Brown was shot by an unknown suspect in a bar in Ft. Meade. Officer Brown went to the bar to shut it down because it had not closed at 2:00 a.m.

Leon A. Bernard
April 9, 1963

On April 9, 1963, at approximately 4:00 PM, Deputy Bernard was an off-duty jailer enroute to his home when he encountered two armed robbery suspects fleeing in a vehicle from the Sun Loan Company located in the Golden Gate Shopping Center in Bartow. Deputy Bernard followed the suspects who were headed towards State Road 60, eastbound from Bartow.

Deputy Bernard was confronted by a passenger in the suspect vehicle who had exited his vehicle in the vicinity of Lake Garfield. Deputy Bernard was shot to death by the armed suspect on Lake Garfield Road, south of State Road 60.

Deputy Bernard was 51 years of age at the time of his death.

Paul A. Powell
May 26, 1967

On May 26, 1967, Deputy Powell was enroute to his duty station. At approximately 3:14 PM, his vehicle was struck by a train on South Crystal Lake Drive, east of U.S. Highway 98 South, in Lakeland.

Deputy Powell died at the scene as a result of the injuries sustained during the crash. Deputy Powell was 26 years of age at the time of his death.

Powell black and white with bowtie

Deputy Sheriff T.A. Burnham
January 9, 1981

Deputy Theron "T.A." Burnham responded to an area off Dranefield Road near the Lakeland Regional Airport in an attempt to locate a suspect involved in a reported abduction. Unknown to authorities at the time, the suspect had shot and killed two people. At approximately 4:20 a.m., Deputy Burnham encountered the suspect walking on Dranefield Road, west of Airport Road. Subsequently, a struggle ensued between Deputy Burnham and the suspect. Deputy Burnham was shot and killed with his service revolver by the suspect. Deputy Burnham was 27 years old at the time of his death.


Patrolman Henry David McCall
March 5, 1981

On March 5, 1981, Officer McCall responded to alarm at the 1st Federal Bank at the corner of Hwy 630 and Scenic Hwy in Frostproof. Upon arrival, he was shot and killed by the suspect(s). He died at the scene.

mccall in frame

Waymon D. Allen
March 15, 1987

On May 29, 1986, at approximately 10:45 PM, Deputy Allen, acting in an undercover capacity, with several other Polk County Sheriff's Office deputies and officers from the Winter Haven Police Department, executed a search warrant on a rooming house in Winter Haven, where suspected illicit drug dealing was occurring.

Upon entering the rooming house, Deputy Allen was accidentally shot by another officer. Deputy Allen died ten (10) months later, on March 15, 1987, from heart failure attributed to the gunshot wound he received on May 29, 1986.

Deputy Allen was 39 years old at the time of his death.

Waymond Allen portrait

David Michael Goddard
February 2, 1989

On February 2, 1989, at approximately 5:15 AM, while on routine patrol, Deputy Goddard was involved in a traffic crash during which his patrol vehicle impacted the rear of a truck on Airport Road, southwest of Lakeland. Deputy Goddard died at the scene as a result of the injuries sustained during the crash.

Deputy Goddard was 34 years old at the time of his death.

David Goddard in frame

Officer Johnny Boyd Smith
Frostproof Police Department
May 9, 1990

On May 8, 1990, Officer Smith was patrolling in the vicinity of Hwy 630 E, when he was struck head on by a vehicle. Officer Smith died at the scene as a result of injuries sustained during the crash.

Johnny Smith posing in front of library

Deputy Sheriff Flight Officer Larry Rhoden
October 22, 2001

Deputy Sheriff Flight Officer Larry Rhoden, 33, of Ft. Meade, and Deputy Sheriff Pilot Brian Wilkinson, 33, of Lake Alfred, were killed when their Sheriff's Office helicopter - a 1971 OH58 Bell Jet Ranger - crashed into a pond/pasture near Old Bartow Eagle Lake Road in Bartow (near Lake Hancock) shortly after 1 a.m. on October 22, 2001.

Rhoden was hired in 1991, and joined the Aviation Unit in January of 2001.

Larry Rhoden in frame

Deputy Sheriff Pilot Brian Wilkinson
October 22, 2001

Deputy Sheriff Pilot Brian Wilkinson, 33, of Lake Alfred, and Deputy Sheriff Flight Officer Larry Rhoden, 33, of Ft. Meade, were killed when their Sheriff's Office helicopter - a 1971 OH58 Bell Jet Ranger - crashed into a pond/pasture near Old Bartow Eagle Lake Road in Bartow (near Lake Hancock) shortly after 1 a.m. on October 22, 2001.

Wilkinson began his career at the Sheriff's Office in 1994. He joined the Aviation Unit in March of 2001.

Brian Wilkinson in frame

Deputy Sheriff Vernon "Matt" Williams & K-9 Diogi
September 28, 2006

Deputy Sheriff Vernon “Matt” Williams, along with his K-9 partner Diogi, was the first backup unit on-scene to assist a traffic deputy with apprehending a suspect who had fled into a wooded area off of Wabash Avenue in Lakeland on September 28, 2006. Deputy Sheriff Williams and Diogi went into the heavily wooded area to search for the suspect, when the suspect fired several rounds at them while under thick cover of the woods. A short time later, the suspect re-appeared and fired several rounds at the traffic deputy, hitting him in the leg. The traffic deputy returned fire, and the suspect dived back down into the wooded brushy area for cover. Backup units quickly arrived and began searching the area for the suspect, and for Deputy Williams who was not responding to his radio.

Deputy Matt Williams was found about an hour after the exchange of gunfire under the thick underbrush, deceased, with his canine partner deceased next to him. His autopsy would reveal that he had been shot 9 times, and his dog had been shot once. The suspect remained at large until 9:35 a.m. the following day, Friday, September 29th, when a 10-member SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team located the suspect hiding, with Deputy Williams’ agency issued semiautomatic pistol in his hand. The SWAT team fatally shot the suspect.

Deputy Sheriff Matt Williams was 39 years old at the time of his death. Diogi was 3 years old at the time of his death.

Matt and Diogi in frame

Sergeant Ronnie O'Neal Brown
September 8, 2009

Sgt. Brown was injured in the line of duty on Sunday, August 30, 2009, after responding to an unruly prisoner's cell in the South County Jail. The inmate became agitated and eventually broke the sprinkler head in his cell, which caused water to continuously spray into the cell. Several deputies, including Sgt. Brown, responded to his cell to escort him out. After Sgt. Brown entered the cell, the inmate battered and shoved Sgt. Brown backwards, knocking him against the wall and causing him to land on the floor on his back.

Due to the injuries he received as a result of being shoved into the wall and onto the floor by the inmate, Sgt. Brown had to be rescued from the cell by his fellow deputies. He was later transported to Winter Haven Hospital, and he underwent back surgery on Wednesday, September 2nd. He remained in Winter Haven Hospital after surgery and died in his hospital bed on Monday, September 8, 2009.

Ronnie Brown in frame

Sergeant Richard “Wes” Whitmore, Jr.
December 12, 2010

Sgt. Wesley Richard “Wes” Whitmore, Jr., was fatally injured in the line of duty on Sunday, December 12, 2010, after an out-of-control SUV struck him and his patrol car in a convenience store parking lot, just after Sgt. Whitmore made a traffic stop in Winter Haven. Sgt. Whitmore was declared deceased on-scene. The elderly driver of the SUV had a medical incident which caused him to lose control of the vehicle.

Sgt. Whitmore was a 26-year-veteran of the United States Air Force, retiring as a Major before joining the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy in 1995. He was promoted to Sergeant in 2008. He was 59 years old.

Richard Whitmore in frame

Master Deputy Sheriff Joseph “Shane” Robbins
April 26, 2013

Master Deputy Sheriff Joseph “Shane” Robbins was fatally injured in the line of duty on Friday, April 26, 2013, when his patrol car crashed off of Bomber Road in Winter Haven. There were no other vehicles involved. Master Deputy Robbins was declared deceased on-scene. Master Deputy Robbins spent a many number of years at PCSO working as a detective in the Special Victims Unit. His mission was to protect children. Master Deputy Robbins joined the agency as a deputy sheriff in 1998. He was 40 years old.

Master Deputy Shane Robbins

Deputy Sheriff Christopher Broadhead
August 23, 2021

Deputy Sheriff Broadhead was stricken with COVID-19 and succumbed to the illness on August 23, 2021. He was 32 years old. Deputy Broadhead joined the agency in November 2011. Throughout his career he was also a property crimes detective, robbery detective, and homicide detective. He was most recently assigned to the Southeast District, in the Lake Wales area of the county. He was a graduate of the University of Florida. Chris was married to former Deputy Elisa (Ranze) Broadhead. Chris was a stepfather to Elisa’s three children and together he and Elisa have two daughters.
Deputy Broadhead

Deputy Sheriff Blane Lane
October 4, 2022

Deputy Sheriff Lane died in the line of duty while serving a felony arrest warrant in Polk City on October 4, 2022. He was 21 years old. Deputy Lane became a detention deputy in May 2021, then a deputy sheriff in January 2022. He was most recently assigned to the Northwest District, in the north Lakeland area of the county. Deputy Lane is survived by his loving family.
Deputy Blane Lane

Tribute to an Officer

by Willie Taylor
It started out as a tour of duty with a routine trend,
With no clue at all that it held a tragic end.
Over the radio the coded call came,
An officer is down, no mention of a name.
We look at each other with shock and fear
Afraid of the next words that we might hear.
The day suddenly becomes a dark somber grey
We just learned an officer has died on this day.
The flags are dropped to half-mast
Eyes are filled with tears and all faces are down-cast
Badges and ID's are trimmed in black
But none of this will bring our friend back.
Alert messages are sent to law enforcement agencies far and wide
To let them know a family member had died.
They will come from everywhere to pay their respect in kind
To the family and loved ones the officer has left behind.
Tomorrow we will try to go about a normal day
For we know the officer would want it that way.
They know how much we truly care
And that our grief is so hard to bear.
That time alone will erase the pain
And the memories in our hearts will always remain.