A normally calm Winter Haven neighborhood was still in shock a day after investigators say 40-year-old Christopher Deese was shot and killed after breaking into two homes early Sunday morning.
"The incident has really shaken the harmony of the community that we live in," said neighbor Neer Persaud.
Investigators with the Polk County Sheriff's Office say after a night of drinking, a friend dropped off Deese to go to another friend's house on Lake Daisy Drive.
The sheriff's office say she broke into a screened-in back porch of a stranger's home and laid down on a table. The woman who lives at that home called 911.
Next, investigators say Deese started banging on the door of William Cornwell's home next door, demanding to be let in.
Investigators say Cornwell yelled through his door, gun in hand, and told Deese to leave, insisting he was at the wrong house.
According to the sheriff's office, Cornwell opened his door and Deese forced his way in, and that's when Cornwell shot Deese in the chest, killing him.
"I can tell you if there's ever been a justified shooting, this is it," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Not everyone agrees with Judd's assessment.
Deese's family released a statement that read in part:
"Perhaps in the future, Grady Judd could remain impartial until the investigation is completed. The investigation is still ongoing," the statement said.
Back on Lake Daisy Drive, neighbors say the shooting has changed their perspective.
"It makes an awareness of, you know, be more aware of what's going on and who's here," said neighbor Kimberly Persaud.
"My wife is considering getting a gun," said neighbor Jerry Leverette Jr.
This isn't the first time Cornwell has been in the news for shooting an intruder. In 2009, he shot and injured a man who tried to break into his Lake Wales home. He has not been charged in the shooting.
Sheriff Judd says Sunday morning's shooting is a classic "Castle Doctrine" case where the use of deadly force can be used if a person is presumed to have reasonable fear of imminent death in their home.
Here is the entire statement from Deese's family:
Grady Judd was presumptive in implying that our deceased family member was an out of control criminal. Christopher had no criminal history.
As the facts are evolving, it is being shown that Christopher was dropped off to a residence where he was to spend the night until he could safely drive.
The mistake Christopher made was he went to the wrong house to keep from driving and had no malicious intent of breaking into someone's home. This tragic incident could have been precluded had Mr. Cromwell simply not opened his door and allowed the sheriffs to do their job.
Perhaps in the future Grady Judd could remain impartial until the investigation is completed. The investigation is still ongoing.
This is Mr. Cromwell's second in-home shooting. Does this make the Castle Doctrine as its opponents say the "Wild-wild-west?"
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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