Sheriff: Armed man threw Molotov cocktails at house, tried to set fire to nightclub

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A man was arrested after he allegedly threw explosive devices onto a home before leading police on a pursuit.

>> Read more trending news

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that its deputies were called to a Lakeland home on Sunday morning for a report of someone throwing Molotov cocktails at a residence.

Investigators said there were seven Molotov cocktails thrown at the house, with two exploding on the roof and the others rolling down and igniting in the yard, WTVT reported.

When deputies arrived at the scene, they saw a man, identified as Luke Neely, getting into an older-model Chevrolet pickup truck and fleeing. A deputy attempted a traffic stop, but when the vehicle kept going, deputies attempted a PIT maneuver. The truck was not immobilized but was damaged by the PIT maneuver, deputies said.

Deputies said the truck eventually stopped because of the damage, and when Neely exited the vehicle he was in possession of an AR-style rifle. Deputies said they fired several shots at Neely to incapacitate and disarm him, and took him to the hospital with gunshot wounds that were not considered life-threatening.

Three deputies fired a total of 10 rounds, hitting Neely three times — in the right leg, the left leg and groin, The Ledger reported. Neely did not fire any shots.

Deputies said that Neely had 57 rounds of ammunition for the rifle, as well as a fully-loaded handgun on his hip, WTVT reported.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said investigators identified Neely as a suspect in several attempted arsons in Tampa’s Ybor City on Sunday morning.

Judd said Neely began his crime spree with an attempt to set a tree on fire, before then trying to set an air conditioning unit on fire behind the Ritz, WFLA reported.

“He went on a rampage in Ybor last night,” Judd said to WFLA. “Fortunately he was not successful in burning anything down, but I shudder when I think that … there were 1,000 people in the Ritz.”

Neely is accused of trying to set a tree and fence on fire, as well as starting a trash fire at a nightclub over the 90 minutes following the arson attempt at the Ritz, WFLA reported.

Judd said there were three people in the house that Neely targeted, and that Neely had gone to school with the adult daughter who lived in the home, The Ledger reported.

Judd said in the news conference that there was no clear motive and the last time the victim had seen the suspect was in 2016 when a group of friends traveled to California, The Ledger reported.

“There is not, as we know at this moment, a tipping point between one of our victims and this guy,” Judd said. “They knew each other. They had not socialized since 2016. They weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend.”

Neely was charged with attempted first-degree murder, firebombing and resisting arrest, WTSP reported. More charges are expected to be filed in Hillsborough County.

Neely was previously arrested in 2016 on charges of disorderly conduct, using a firearm under the influence of alcohol, and resisting arrest, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.