NewsLocal News


TPD arrests suspect in attempted murder at Taco Bell

Police also investigating overnight fires
Posted at 7:19 PM, Oct 23, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Tallahassee Police Department and investigators have arrested the suspect in the attempted murder at Taco Bell Wednesday night.

Police say the victim was life-flighted in serious condition after a suspect, identified as Mia Williams, allegedly poured gasoline on the victim and set the victim on fire at the Taco Bell at 2806 South Monroe Street.

A witness who asked to remain anonymous says he saw Williams walk into Taco Bell Wednesday and throw gas on two workers behind the counter. The man says they caught on fire and Williams ran away.

And that's when the choice came to try to put out the flames or chase Williams down, so he stayed to help. One woman is still in the hospital for burns.

People who worked at Burger King and Dollar General nearby have said Williams was there a couple days ago and got banned. ABC 27 also reached out to Taco Bell but we haven't heard back.

Investigators won't tell us if Williams knew the victims or if it was random. Williams was taken into custody around 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

Court documents show Williams actually changed her name five years ago. They show the suspect, formerly known as Javoris Williams, could have a rap sheet.

Williams changed her name officially through Leon County courts in 2014. Before that, there was a case where she was evicted from an apartment.

But in 2017 and 2018, she was arrested three different times for drugs. Williams is now facing charges for attempted murder..

Just hours after the the attempted murder at Taco Bell, a series of overnight fires broke out. One happened at Providence Baptist Church at 1901 Hillsborough Street, a dumpster and car fire outside the MagLab on Paul Dirac Drive and two car fires at a home on Lake Avenue.

Walter McDonnell, who recently resigned as pastor at Providence Baptist Church, said that he was thankful to God that the church hadn't been burned to the ground but was anxious when he first heard about the fire.

"I can remember reading and hearing about other churches going through this same thing and always wondered about the people and the effect that it no doubt had," McDonnell said. "Our congregation now is experiencing the same kinds of feelings of, 'Why did this have to happen?' and 'Why now?'"

He says his son woke him out of his sleep Thursday morning and told him they needed to rush to the church. Since seeing the charred remains of the church, McDonald has gone through a gambit of emotions.

McDonnell said Williams attended the church a few times before the fire and always saw Williams walking the street. The last time he saw Williams was about a month ago.

"He was a troubled young man. I'm just sorry to see him go this far with whatever he's dealing with," McDonald said.

McDonnell says Williams stayed at the Kearney Center for about nine months but left last November.

Williams also confided in the pastor about gender identity struggles. TPD says Williams "identifies as a black female."

The congregation would occasionally give the suspect food and money to help, but now the pastor is wishing there was something more that he could have done.

"If he is the one that set all these fires last evening, it's worse then I ever could've thought about what was going on with him," McDonnell said. "He'll go to jail for sure, but I don't know if jail is going to be the ultimate need that this person has. So he needs prayer, but more than that, he needs Jesus."

The question of why is the same question on Frank Grimes' mind. He woke up early Thursday morning to a woman screaming in the middle of the road about cars being on fire. When he ran outside, he saw the flaming cars were his and his brother's.

"Why me? Like why?" Grimes said. "What have I done to piss somebody off to set my car on fire? ... Just still wondering why."

Grimes lives on Lake Avenue, just 350 feet away from the church.

Both fires are under investigation right now by the Tallahassee Fire Department, Tallahassee Police Department, and the State Fire Marshall's Office. Investigators have yet to determine if any of those fires are connected.

The Taco Bell location on South Monroe Street is closed as of Thursday.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about this case to please call them at (850) 891-4200 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS.