LAKELAND, Fla. — A homeowner shot a man who was breaking into his north Lakeland home Wednesday afternoon, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies say they were told by the homeowner that a man, who has since been identified as 42-year-old Steven Stillwell, threw a flower pot through the glass back door and forced his way inside.
Stillwell was shot three times by the homeowner, who has a legally-owned firearm, the sheriff's office said in a news release.
The homeowner was said to have turned in his gun when deputies arrived and directed them to Stillwell, who was lying on the floor. Stillwell was taken to the hospital, where he is in critical condition.
"The castle doctrine is very clear in Florida law," Sheriff Grady Judd wrote in a statement. "A person’s home is his refuge. 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."
Florida law allows a person inside their home to stand their ground and use deadly force "if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony."
Stillwell faces charges in connection to the alleged home invasion. The sheriff's office says he has a criminal history, including 13 felonies, for charges including burglaries, DUI, drugs, fraud and other crimes.