A Winter Haven man justifiably shot and killed an enraged intruder this morning, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Judd, who addressed the media this morning, said William Cornwell, 33, was protecting his family when he shot a man who stormed into his home on the 400 block of Lake Daisy Drive about 4 a.m.
The suspect, whom investigators said initially approached the house next door, was identified Sunday evening as Christopher Brian Deese, 40, of Lakeland.
"If there’s ever been a justified shooting, this is it," Judd said. "This is a classic 'Castle Doctrine' case. William Cornwell had every right to protect himself, his wife and his children from this irrational, out of control man who broke into their home. The mistake the suspect made by breaking into that home was a fatal one."
The Castle Doctrine, which several states have, gives a person the right to use deadly force in certain situations when confronted in his or her own home.
A bizarre series of events began when a woman in the house next door to Cornwell's looked out window and saw a man lying on her back patio table, Judd said.
Before Deese made it to the woman's house, detectives said Sunday night, he'd started drinking with friends at the Somewhere Lounge in the same strip mall as Gold's Gym on Cypress Gardens Boulevard in southeast Winter Haven. From there, Deese and his friends went to The Grove lounge on Cypress Gardens Road.
Detectives stated Deese's friend said he became quite intoxicated.
One of Deese's friends took him to a house in Winter Haven, where eventually Deese got into a physical fight with someone, detectives said. Deese was asked to leave. Deese asked his friend who brought him to the house to take him to Lake Daisy Estates, because, he said, he had a friend there.
The friend said Deese told him to drop him off on Lake Daisy Drive, near houses the two houses he later tried to allegedly break into.
Once at the first house, the woman ran to her bathroom, locked herself in and called 911.
Judd said that according to a preliminary investigation, the intruder then moved to Cornwell's house and began banging on the front door, screaming, cursing and demanding to be let in.
Cornwell's wife, Traci, told deputies she was sleeping on the couch and was awakened by the banging. She woke up her husband, who armed himself with a handgun and, according to investigators, yelled through the door several times at the suspect to go away.
Investigators say the enraged man kept banging on the front screen door and solid door.
At this point, investigators say, William Cornwell opened the front solid door and continued to tell the man through the screen door to leave.
The enraged man then opened the screen door and ran into the Cornwells' home, investigators say.
Cornwell said he retreated and, while fumbling with his gun, accidentally fired a shot into the ground. Investigators say the man stopped briefly, took off his shirt, and yelled, "You wanna fight?"
He then ran directly at Cornwell, at which point Cornwell fired one round into the suspect's chest, killing him, Judd said.
The Cornwells' 3-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter were sleeping in their beds during this incident.
Authorities confirmed Cornwell was involved in a similar incident on March 18, 2009, when he lived in Lake Wales. An intruder broke into Cornwell's home, and Cornwell shot him two times. The suspect fled and was later arrested.
He is currently in state prison. That shooting was deemed justified by the State Attorney's Office.
Neither Cornwell, nor his next door neighbor wished to comment at this time. Other residents in the Lake Daisy subdivision had support for Cornwell.
"I'm going to protect my house no matter what because it's going to be either them or you," said Robert Hernandez.
"I think if someone is going to invade your privacy and come into your house you've gotta do what you've gotta do to protect your family," said Michelle Adams.