Polk Co. Deputies arrest Lakeland man after high-speed chase, man allegedly linked to 6 other thefts

Posted at 12:31 PM, Oct 11, 2017

A Lakeland man who led police officers on a high-speed chase on Tuesday, has been captured. 

Polk County Sheriff Office (PSCO) Deputies arrested 52-year-old Michael Willis on numerous charges ranging from Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle, Fleeing to elude/Reckless high speed, and Aggravated assault on a Law Enforcement officer. 

Deputies spotted Willis driving a stolen Mercedes Benz on Reynolds Road in Southeast Lakeland around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. When they attempted to stop Willis, he drove off, weaving in and out of traffic at speeds upwards of 100 mph.

When Willis allegedly started driving into oncoming traffic, deputies say they called off the chase and used the PSCO helicopter to track him. 

During the chase, Willis reportedly ran a PSCO K-9 unit off the road while driving south on Thornhill Road. The deputy, however, was able to swerve in time so he did not crash and was not hurt. 

Later, a witness reportedly told the police they saw Willis driving at such a high speed, the Benz went airborne while crossing the railroad tracks and struck a railroad crossing arm. 

Once the car was stopped, Willis got out and climbed a fence surrounding the Bartow Air Base. A backpack filled with numerous bank cards, driver licenses and gift cards that did not belong to Willis was supposedly found in the backpack. 

Willis was captured by the same K-9 deputy he nearly ran off the road earlier during the chase. 

Deputies say several of the items found in the stolen Mercedes were linked to six other Lakeland car burglaries dating back to October 6th, 2017. The Mercedes Willis was driving was stolen on October 7th of this year. 

Here's the full list of charges for Willis, as provided by the criminal affidavit:

  • Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle (F3)
  • Grand Theft (F3), five counts
  • Fleeing to elude/Reckless high speed (F2)
  • Aggravated assault on a Law Enforcement Officer (F2)
  • Possession of methamphetamine (F3)
  • Burglary of conveyance (F3), nine counts
  • Unlawful possession of personal ID (F3)
  • Criminal mischief (M1)
  • Driving with Suspended/Revoked license (M2)
  • Petit theft (M2)
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia (M1)
  • Leaving the scene of a crash (M2)

Willis has a long history of criminal activities as his arrest dates go back to 1986. To date, he's had 107 criminal charges and nine incarcerations. 


The investigation is ongoing.