Polk County homeowner shoots, kills suspect

Updated:

POLK COUNTY, Fla. —

Deputies said a Polk County homeowner shot and killed a man who barged into his home early Sunday morning.

Deputies and emergency crews were called to Lake Daisy Drive in Winter Haven around 4:00 a.m.

Officials said the incident started when a woman called 911 to report that an unknown man had broken into her back porch area. While en route to the woman's home, deputies received a second 911 call from a neighbor, who said he had just shot a man who barged into his home.

Investigators quickly learned that both 911 callers were reporting the same man.

Officials said the man was yelling, banging on the door, and demanding to be let in. The suspect barged into the home when he was confronted by the homeowner, who was identified as 33-year-old William Cornwell. Deputies said Cornwell was armed with a handgun.

Cornwell opened fire on the man when he tried to fight him inside the home, according to investigators.

Polk County deputies said Christopher Deese was belligerently drunk after a night at two local bars.

Officials said the homeowner's 3-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter were sleeping inside the home at the time.

"I was yelling through the window to go away. You know he had the wrong house, and he was kicking the door. I thought he was gonna break the door," Cornwell said. "When I opened the door to tell him, he ripped the screen door open and charged me."

Cornwell fired, hitting Deese in the chest, who died inside the house.

Deese's friends said he left this house in Auburndale on Saturday morning. When he wasn't home by Sunday morning, they knew something was wrong.

"He was the type of guy who would do anything for you and not expect anything in return," said friend Lyndon Allred.

Allred said Deese was looking for his girlfriend's house, but was disoriented.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Deese didn't know anyone in the neighborhood and Cornwell was right to do what he did.

"If there's ever been a justified shooting, this is it," said Judd.

This isn't the first time Cornwell was forced to shoot a suspect. Deputies said in 2009 an intruder broke into Cornwell's home in Lake Wales and he shot him twice. The suspect survived, was caught, and is now serving time in state prison.