Polk Sheriff Judd Warns Against Protest Violence

LAKELAND -- At a joint news conference with Lakeland's police chief and local ministers, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced that the countywide curfew would be extended another night, and told those seeking to commit violence they would face jail time.

"If you come here to riot, to loot, to injure people, we are going to lock you up," Judd told reporters. He also suggested that those who created unrest at Sunday's protest at Florida and Memorial in Lakeland were not from Polk County.

The sheriff showed a photo of one protester dressed in what he called a "professional" outfit, with a mask and clothes designed to seal out pepper spray or other chemicals. "This person was here to create problems," Judd said. He said officers and deputies saw out-of-state plates on cars coming to the Lakeland protest.

Judd also suggested that an incident in which a red car allegedly ran down a protester may have been staged.

The sheriff says deputies also broke up a crowd at Posner Park in Davenport, where reports suggested there was going to be a violent protest Sunday evening.

Judd also referenced social media reports that some individuals were planning to take criminal conduct into neighborhoods. "IF you value your life," Judd said," you shouldn't do that." Judd said the people of Polk County have guns, and like guns, and he encourages them to own guns. "If you try to break in (to their houses)... I recommend they blow you back out," Judd said.

The curfew is set from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Photo: Polk Sheriff's Office

Photo: Getty Images

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