On April 3rd at 7:39 p.m., the Lakeland Police Department responded to 200 North Galloway Road in reference to a traffic crash. One of the vehicles involved in the crash, 2005 Buick Rendezvous, had been reported stolen to the Lakeland Police Department earlier that morning at 9:05 a.m. The owner of the stolen vehicle had entered his residence leaving the vehicle unlocked and the keys in the ignition. He was in his residence briefly and when he comes back out, his vehicle was stolen.
Prior to the accident, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) was conducting traffic enforcement when they attempted to stop the speeding stolen Buick Rendezvous as it traveled south bound on Galloway Road near the intersection of Sutton Road. The vehicle fled from a PCSO Deputy and he discontinued his efforts to stop the vehicle to include turning off his emergency lights and turning away. The deputy never got close enough to get a tag number or identify the driver. For additional details on PCSO involvement, please contact their Public Information Officer, Carrie E. Horstman.
At the scene of the crash, LPD officers observed the stolen Buick Rendezvous facing north on its right side on the east shoulder of the roadway. The other vehicle, 2004 Toyota 4 Runner, was facing south on the east shoulder of the roadway with the driver deceased in the drivers set. The driver of the Toyota 4 Runner was not wearing a seat belt.
The preliminary investigation revealed that the stolen Buick Rendezvous was traveling north on Galloway Road North. It appears that the stolen Buick crossed the center double yellow line and hit the Toyota 4 Runner head on.
The stolen Buick Rendezvous rotated and came to a final rest facing north on its side on the east shoulder of the roadway. The Toyota 4 Runner rotated and came to a final rest facing south on the east shoulder of the roadway. No tire marks were observed to indicate breaking from either vehicle.
The stolen Buick Rendezvous was occupied by six males, all of which were transported to Lakeland Regional Health for various injuries except for one juvenile who was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. Detectives are still trying to verify names, address and date of birth of all the occupants. It appears at this time that there were 3 juveniles and 3 adults in the vehicle, one of which had a loaded handgun in his pocket. Five of the occupants were stable with serious injuries and unconscious.
The driver of the stolen Buick Rendezvous has not been identified as of yet. Traffic homicide investigators and detectives will follow-up with the State Attorney’s Office as the investigation continues and at this time, no charges have been filed.
The deceased driver of the Toyota 4 Runner has been identified as Matthew John Smith, 31 years of age of Lakeland. Next-of-kin has been notified.