Lake Wales, Florida -On January 8, 2017 at approximately 8:34 am officers responded the report of an armed robbery at McDonald’s, located at 2500 Ridge Way in Lake Wales. Officers arrived on scene and learned that an armed suspect entered the restaurant, fired a shot into the ceiling, and ordered everyone to not move. The two customers who were in the lobby eating complied with the order and the employees fled in different directions. The suspect did not fire any other shots and nobody was hurt. When the employees fled, the suspect went behind the counter but was not able to get into any of the registers. He then fled the store in what was described as a blue minivan. The employees provided a physical description of the black male suspect and gave a clothing description. They stated he was wearing a dark colored hoodie with the hood over his head, a red bandana covering his face, jeans, and white tennis shoes. They stated he was armed with a handgun.
A BOLO was broadcast over the police radio which provided the vehicle and suspect description. Officers from the Lake Wales Police Department and Polk County Sheriff Deputies began looking for the vehicle and suspect. A blue minivan fitting the description was seen traveling south on 1st St and it stopped just west of the intersection of Park Ave and 1st St, in front of the Post Office. The van, a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country, was being driven by the vehicle owner, Latasha Johnson. She stated her boyfriend, Willie Watson III, had just arrived to her apartment at the Seminole Hotel, located at 207 N 1st St, with the van and he had been driving it that morning. Officers and Deputies secured the perimeter of the Seminole Hotel and located Watson inside. With the van fitting the description of the suspect vehicle and Watson fitting the description of the robbery suspect he was detained and transported to the Lake Wales Police Department for further investigation. Watson immediately invoked his rights and refused to speak with detectives about the robbery.
A search of the minivan revealed a loaded 40 caliber handgun which is the same type of firearm used during the robbery. It also revealed a glove which matched a glove left at the scene by Watson. The apartment Watson had been in at 207 N 1st St has been secured and will be searched for evidence related to the robbery. The investigation revealed the owner of the van was not with Watson during the robbery and she stated he had no knowledge of the robbery.
McDonald’s management confirmed Watson did not gain entry to the cash registers and they reported nothing was missing from the restaurant. At this time of this release video or pictures are not available. “This robbery could have gone real bad! We are thankful nobody was injured during the incident. We are also thankful we were able to locate Watson and take him into custody without incident. The great working relationship between the Lake Wales Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office resulted in a violent criminal being captured very quickly.” (Schulze)
Watson has been placed under arrest by Detective David Hernandez and will be booked into the Polk County Jail charged with the following: Armed Robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, discharge of a firearm in an occupied business, and there may be additional charges.
Watson is no stranger to the criminal lifestyle and he has a very extensive arrest record. Anyone who has information about this investigation is asked to contact Detective David Hernandez at (863) 678-4223 extension 264 or Heartland Crime Stoppers at (800) 226-8477.