- Associated Press - Thursday, July 23, 2020

LAKELAND, Ga. (AP) - A suspect in a Florida killing, a resident of a south Georgia county and a sheriff’s deputy were all hit by gunfire as the suspect fled authorities, according to officials.

Lanier County deputies were called to a home invasion on Wednesday in which a resident was shot and someone tried to steal his vehicle, The Valdosta Daily Times quoted Sheriff Nick Norton as saying.

Deputies began chasing a car driven by a man believed to be connected with a Tuesday killing in Tampa, Florida. The man was identified as 37-year-old William “Billy” Welland. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the black Audi he was driving was stolen in Tampa.

After Welland crashed that car, he broke into another home, stole a minivan and continued fleeing, Norton said.

When deputies cornered Welland northeast of Lakeland, he began shooting, grazing a deputy under her arm, according to the sheriff. He said it was the woman’s first day as a Lanier County deputy.

“She was riding with a seasoned sergeant, learning her way around the county,” Norton said.

The deputies fired back, hitting Welland multiple times. He was hospitalized in Valdosta.

The deputy was released from the hospital Wednesday, Norton said. The resident shot in the home invasion was also hospitalized.

Welland was wanted after police found a man dead in the garage bay of an auto body shop, Tampa police said. Detectives were traveling to Lanier County to continue the investigation, while GBI is investigating the shooting by the deputies.

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.

“This guy was headed north, and Lanier County just happened to be in his way,” Norton said.

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