At approximately 1:56 pm, on Friday, February 6, 2015, Polk County Sheriff's Office patrol deputies were dispatched to 2286 Executive Road South, Winter Haven, in reference to a subject identified as 39-year-old Michael Allen Phillips threatening to commit suicide by law enforcement.
Phillips’ mother, Deborah Higgins, also responded to the scene and told detectives her son, Phillips, had said he did not want to live and was tired of being sick all the time. Phillips mother told deputies Phillips has had mental illness issues since he was child. He has type one diabetes and is also diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.
Phillips went to Bartow Regional Hospital three days ago for an allergic reaction. He was prescribed medication before being discharged. He had another reaction and Higgins took her son back to Bartow Regional Hospital late evening, Thursday, February 5, 2015. During the travel, Phillips jumped from the moving vehicle threatening to harm himself and saying law enforcement would not “take him alive.” Phillips fired a shot from a handgun and fled near Earnest M. Smith Boulevard. Bartow Police, assisted by PCSO deputies, attempted to locate Phillips but were unsuccessful.
Attempts to talk Phillips from the building he had barricaded himself in on Friday, were unsuccessful and concerns grew when Phillips advised he would "blow the place up killing all of us," and “people are going to die.”
Deputies obtained an Ex Parte Order as a result of Phillips’s threats and were working to take him into custody. (An Ex Parte Order allows law enforcement to take a person into custody to have them evaluated.)
Phillips told detectives via telephone, he had explosives and was suffering from “some kind of chemical reaction, and had no reason to live” because of his health. Phillips also told detectives if they attempted to enter the warehouse explosions would occur not only killing him but others.
Throughout the incident, Phillips was communicating with friends and family members, advising he could hear what law enforcement was doing outside of the building and he had to prepare the explosives. He further stated he would not regret “executing police,” and encouraged those he had communicated with to “come and watch.”
As a result of Phillips’ threats to harm himself and law enforcement officers, the PCSO Negotiation and SWAT teams responded to the scene. Phillips told negotiators he had acetylene tanks rigged to explode. Phillips made numerous threats to kill law enforcement and himself.
The only way into the warehouse was through a ten foot roll up metal door where the acetylene tanks were clearly visible. In addition, deputies observed gasoline tanks and acetone containers nearby.
A perimeter was established at approximately 4:12 pm, and negotiations continued with negative results and Phillips continued to threaten violence. Detectives obtained the Ex Parte order and an arrest warrant for Phillips for threatening to Discharge a Destructive Device and Corrupt by Threat of a Public Servant.
Shortly after 7:00 pm, SWAT members moved Phillips’ van which had been blocking the entrance to the warehouse. At this time, Phillips began shooting out of the building. Several members of the SWAT team were in a building northwest of Phillips, to include SWAT Medic John Mikula, 35-years of age. Mikula was struck once in the left shoulder as a result of Phillips’ gunfire. Phillips continued his assault forcing deputies to return fire until all were away from their original location near Phillips’ building. Mikula has been employed with Polk County EMS for over 10 years and has worked as a PCSO SWAT Medic for approximately five years. He was transported to an area hospital where he is listed in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery. (Mikula has since been released from the hospital.)
During the exchange of gunfire, an explosion occurred near the door of the warehouse, causing a fire. At approximately 11:24 pm, Polk County Fire extinguished the flames and a body was recovered from inside.
An autopsy conducted by the Polk County Medical Examiner's Office concluded the decedent's CAUSE OF DEATH was a SELF-INFLICTED intraoral gunshot wound to the head, and MANNER OF DEATH was SUICIDE.
The following agencies assisting in this investigation include:
The State Fire Marshal’s Office Bomb Squad, which was embedded with the PCSO SWAT team, was instrumental in utilizing robotic equipment to remove hazardous chemicals from around the barricaded van prior to the fire. They will be assisting with the fire and death investigation.
Officers from the Winter Haven Police Department assisted with establishing the perimeter and traffic control.
Polk County Fire Rescue responded as well as Winter Haven and Dundee Fire Departments providing mutual aid support.
Background on Phillips:
1. Phillips is listed as the founder of Polk Plumbing on the Polk Plumbing website. (http://www.polkplumbing.com/home/about-us)
2. Phillips was said to be living in the warehouse where the incident occurred; a last known address is listed as 2075 Isle Royale Ct SE Apt #260, Winter Haven
3. Phillips’ criminal arrest history includes:
o 1/17/02 - Orange County - Aggravated Assault w/ Weapon, Kidnapping
o 12/26/02 - Orange County - Battery Touch or Strike DV, Obstructing Justice - Intimidation
o 2/22/05 - Pasco County - Aggravated Assault w/ Weapon, Aggravated Battery w/ Weapon
4. In November 2013, Phillips told friends if police came looking for him he would leave in a body bag. It was alleged that he had narcotics and multiple weapons, to include assault-style firearms, in the home.
A timeline of events is below:
7:48 pm -– Bartow Police and PCSO respond to call of suicidal subject (M. Phillips) jumping from moving vehicle.
12:00 am –– Phillips called family member from Eagle Lake Racetrac and was taken to his mother’s home, however law enforcement was not notified. Phillips then drives to the Executive Drive warehouse where he remains.
1:56 pm – PCSO received call from Phillips’ mother, Deborah Higgins, advising Phillips was at the Executive Drive, warehouse threatening “suicide by cop.” PCSO Patrol deputies respond meeting Higgins at the location. Initial conversations with Phillips begin and attempts to have him exit the building peacefully are unsuccessful. A perimeter is established.
3:50 pm – Phillips tells deputies multiple times he will exit building, but then changes his mind. During contact with Phillips he threatens law enforcement repeatedly.
4:16 pm – SWAT and Crisis Negotiation Teams arrive and attempt to have Phillips exit the building.
4:30 pm – Phillips says he dislikes Law Enforcement and sends threatening text to family member advising he will kill LEOs and is wired with explosives. Chemicals are seen in plain view.
4:47 pm – Phillips advises he may come out.
5:15 pm – Phillips’ demeanor changed and demanded everyone move away from the area.
5:28 pm – Detectives secure Ex-Parte Order along with Warrant.
5:54 pm – Phillips advised he would be blowing up the building.
6:09 pm – Phillips says he can see SWAT members and that he has rounds to pierce body armor and tells SWAT and CNT to “take a shot.”
6:35 pm – State Fire Marshal bomb squad, utilizing robotic equipment, begin moving chemicals from around Phillips’ van which had been parked in front of a bay door of the building.
6:36 pm – Phillips tells negotiators he plans to kill himself using a shotgun.
7:05 pm – SWAT begins moving van.
7:07 pm – Phillips begins shooting at SWAT members who return fire. TAC Medic John Mikula is struck in left shoulder. (Stable condition at local hospital and expected to make full recovery.)
8:35 pm - Polk County Fire begins attempts to extinguish fire which began during exchange of gunfire. Nothing is heard from Phillips since gunfire and building becoming engulfed in flames.
11:25 pm – Body is found in burned building – believed to be that of Michael Phillips. He was wearing a bullet proof vest.
The investigation is ongoing.