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Welcome to the Polk County Sheriff's Office News Room, where the Public Information Officers (PIO's) post all of the information that they release to the news media. PIO's act as liaisons between news media organizations and the Sheriff's Office. The PIO's routinely release timely and accurate information and Crime Stoppers bulletins, and respond to routine and "breaking news" media inquiries. News releases and Crime Stoppers information can be found on this page.
PCSO's full-time Public Information Officers are Brian Bruchey, Carrie Horstman, and Alicia Manautou. The Public Information Officers can be reached by sending an e-mail collectively at PIOs@polksheriff.org.
The recent news releases sent out by the PIOs can be found here, and archived releases (older than 2017) can be found here.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating the shooting of a man who broke into the backdoor of a north Lakeland home. The intruder was shot by a resident of the home. The shooting occurred yesterday, December 15th at approximately 12:50 p.m. at a residence located near Gibsonia-Galloway Road.
According to the homeowner, a man later identified as 42-year-old Steven Stillwell of Lakeland, threw a flower pot through the glass back door and forced his way into the residence. The homeowner shot the man three times with a legally owned firearm. The homeowner does not know Stillwell.
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. Deputies began providing first aid, then Polk County Fire Rescue transported him to a local hospital. He is currently receiving care in the hospital and is in critical, stable condition.
Detectives found a shotgun belonging to Stillwell in the backyard and accessed video from the residence that showed Stillwell running from a gate in the backyard to and inside the attached back porch area of the home. Detectives noted a set of French glass doors leading into the living room from the back porch. One of the doors was shattered; the damage indicated that the door was broken from outside (the porch). Evidence at the scene shows that Stillwell was shot inside the home.
“The castle doctrine is very clear in Florida law. 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.” –Grady Judd, Sheriff
The shooting is currently under investigation. Criminal charges are pending against Stillwell.
Stillwell has an extensive criminal arrest history of 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.