A Florida sheriff praised a homeowner for shooting a burglar who broke into his home amid the holiday season.
According to reports, recidivist Steven Stillwell, 42, was shot around 12:50 p.m. after he threw a flower pot through a Lakeland homeowner’s glass back door and forced entry.
“That’s when the homeowner said he shot the suspect three times,” reports Fox10Phoenix.com.
A Polk County sheriff’s office press release noted the homeowner’s firearm was legally owned, though they did not describe the type of firearm.
“When deputies arrived, the homeowner immediately turned his firearm over and directed them to the suspect, who was lying on the floor of the living room of the home,” the press release stated.
Stillwell was transported to a local hospital where he’s currently in stable condition.
Police also recovered a shotgun belonging to Stillwell in the homeowner’s back yard.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd commented Stillwell, who’s a convicted felon, was not welcome – unlike this season’s expected visitor, Kris Kringle.
“He’s lucky to be alive,” Judd said. “Only Santa Claus gets to come into your house, and Santa Claus is invited.”
While an investigation into the shooting is still underway, the based sheriff went on to laud Florida’s castle doctrine for protecting a citizen’s right to defend their home using lethal force if necessary.
“The castle doctrine is very clear in Florida law. A person’s home is his refuge,” the sheriff said. “The evidence in this case at this point indicates that the suspect illegally forced his way into the home. The homeowner did exactly what he had a right to do. I commend him for protecting himself and defending his home.”
Judd added he recommends citizens get guns and learn to use them because when seconds count, cops are minutes away.
“I tell folks to get a gun, learn how to use it safely, and load it,” Judd said. “You can dial 9-1-1 all day long, but when that guy’s coming through the back door on you, we can’t get there in time.”
Charges against Stillwell are still pending, but he has an extensive criminal history according to police, including “14 felonies, 5 misdemeanors, and 11 re-arrest charges (VOP, etc.) including: multiple burglaries and larcenies, DUI, multiple violations of probation, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a weapon/ammunition by a convicted felon, dealing in stolen property, and fraud.”
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