GRITNEY, Fla. – One corrections officer was killed and another wounded Wednesday in a gun battle with an ex-convict suspected of killing his parents, state officials said. The ex-convict also died.
Authorities in three states had been searching for 35-year-old Wade Andrew Williams since his parents were found dead in their home in the Florida Panhandle last week.
A hunter in the woods Wednesday saw Williams near a campfire and questioned him about what he was doing. Williams shot at the man, who took cover behind a tree and was hit by shrapnel, officials said. The hunter also told authorities he shot at Williams. The hunter was not badly hurt and was able to contact authorities, who sent about 40 officers to the scene.
K-9 units tracked Williams through a remote wooded area where authorities believe he had been camping. Col. Greg Malloy, a K-9 officer who had been with department since 1988, died when he and other officers exchanged fire with Williams.
David Lee, director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the Panama City region, said K-9 deputies tracked Williams about 1.5 miles into the woods where he had set up an ambush for them. Lee said Williams had a .22-caliber rifle and a 12-gauge shot gun.
"This is not a case of things going wrong," Lee said. "He set up an ambush and he was prepared to fight."
The wounded officer was in stable condition at a hospital, said Mike Morrison, spokesman for Walton County Sheriff's Office.
"The colonel and other officers put themselves in harm's way to apprehend this dangerous suspect," said Holmes County Sheriff Tim Brown in an e-mail statement. "My heart goes out to all his family, friends and fellow officers."
Authorities said they believe Williams killed his parents in Cottondale last week, though they don't know why. He then went to the Choctawhatchee River Management Area near Gritney, a rural town of mobile homes and clapboard houses on mostly dirt roads, and burned his father's truck. Residents had been warned in days earlier that Williams could be in the area.
The hunter, Thomas Crews, said Williams identified himself as "Wade" and said to him: "I'm going to shoot you," The News Herald quoted Crews as saying.
Authorities also searched Alabama and Georgia for Williams, who was released from the Tallahassee Work Release Center in August 2009. He had been sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of several burglary and grand theft charges in 2005 and 2006.
It has already been a deadly year for law enforcement officers around the country and especially in Florida, where two St. Petersburg police officers and two Miami-Dade County detectives died in two separate shootings last month.
Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy and Lisa Orkin Emmanuel in Miami and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee contributed to this report.