POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd could feel his phone going off in his pocket but he ignored it. He was in the middle of delivering a sermon at Green Pond Baptist Church in Polk City on Sunday.
“Little did I know my staff was trying to say, ‘Hey there’s a guy with a murder warrant in there with you’,” Judd said.
Polk County deputies had tracked 56-year-old John Skeen all the way to the church using “investigative information” the sheriff said.
Skeen was wanted in Hillsborough County, accused of killing a man in Ruskin at a home they were staying at during a fishing trip.
“They told the Major, ‘we have the church surrounded.’ It’s like ‘chill out, it’s OK. I’m watching everybody. I’ve got a gun. I’ll keep this under control,’” Judd added.
Deputies first called Skeen’s brother who was also in the church. They asked him to come outside, which he did. Deputies then asked him to go back and get his brother, the suspect.
When the suspect came out, the sheriff said he asked if he could go back inside and listen to the rest of the sermon before getting arrested.
“Sgt. Evans, who had already delivered a baby earlier, said ‘No you can’t do that, but I’m a Christian and I’ll pray with you outside the church’,” Judd said.
Skeen is a longtime member of the Green Pond Baptist Church, according to its pastor.
“We’re all in shock. We’ve been in shock. We still are. I’ve had a couple restless nights. I’ve not been able to sleep,” said Pastor David Cheek.
Pastor Cheek said he was standing next to Sheriff Judd, praying with him, when the sheriff showed him the messages on his phone about an arrest.
“You cannot make this up. You can’t write this. Just surreal. Like wow, and I don’t know if anybody will believe us!” said Pastor Cheek.
Skeen is in the process of being extradited to Hillsborough County on a second-degree murder charge.