Law enforcement closed the westbound lanes of Interstate 4 in Hillsborough County for several hours Sunday after a man suspected of arson led Polk deputies on a pursuit that ended with the suspect being shot.
The Florida Highway Patrol issued a news release about 1:25 p.m. saying the westbound lanes of I-4 were closed from Branch Forbes Road to McIntosh Road; the agency issued another news update at about 4:40 p.m. saying the lanes had been re-opened.
Incidents that led to the closure began just after 8 a.m. Sunday when Polk County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call at the Plantation Ridge development in north Lakeland. The report was that a person was throwing a Molotov cocktail at a residence.
A deputy arrived on the scene and saw a man getting a Chevrolet pickup truck. The deputy tried to pull the man over, but he kept going south on U.S. 98. Given the seriousness of the arson attempt, the deputy tried what’s called a precision immobilization technique or PIT maneuver on the man’s truck but it didn’t work.
The driver turned onto westbound Interstate 4 with deputies in pursuit. Near Branch Forbes Road, the man’s pickup began to slow because of damage it sustained during the PIT maneuver. Deputies rammed the truck, bringing the pursuit to an end.
Deputies said the driver emerged from the truck with what they described as an “AR-style” rifle. Deputies fired at him, which incapacitated him. They got the gun away from him along with another gun he was carrying, according to a news release.
The man, later identified as Luke Neely, 30, of Lakeland, was taken to a hospital with injuries that are not considered life threatening, deputies said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, which is standard in cases in which deputies fire their weapons.