A Florida sheriff said on Thursday his department wants residents of Santa Rosa County to shoot at home invaders after an unidentified homeowner opened fire when a suspect broke into his house.
Last week, Brandon J. Harris, 32, was arrested after allegedly breaking into multiple homes in Pace, Florida. During Harris’ crime spree, one homeowner fired multiple shots at the suspect.
After announcing the arrest, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson encouraged all residents to take a gun safety course offered by the department, noting that those who do will get “a lot better” at handling a firearm. “If you take that, you’ll shoot a lot better, and hopefully you’ll save the taxpayers money,” Johnson said.
Johnson described Harris’ arrest, adding that the homeowner shooting at Harris wasn’t wrong, but it was actually preferred.
“Probably 20 deputies get there, set up a perimeter, the dogs are out, and he’s jumping fences and breaking into houses as he goes,” Johnson said during a press conference. “One of the homeowners, he was breaking into their house, and they shot at him. So he continues to run, we finally corner him in a house that he broke into on Tom Sawyer and we cornered him in a bedroom.”
“We don’t know which homeowner shot at him. I guess they think they did something wrong, which they did not,” Johnson continued. “If somebody is breaking into your house, you’re more than welcome to shoot at them in Santa Rosa County. We prefer that you do actually. So, whoever that was, you’re not in trouble, come see us. We have a gun safety class we put on every other Saturday.”
The sheriff said Harris was charged with multiple felonies, including attempted burglary with assault, burglary to an occupied dwelling, and burglary to an unoccupied dwelling. He was also charged with several misdemeanors, including criminal mischief, resisting arrest without violence, and attempted larceny.
Johnson also said the suspect was a “frequent flyer” who has been arrested 17 times before.
“You hear me talk about frequent flyers all the time. Our first interaction with this individual came when he was 13 years old. Since then, he’s had like 17 arrests,” Johnson said. “We sent him to prison for six and a half years for home invasion, and he just can’t seem to get the picture of crime does not pay.”
Harris was held on a $157,500 bond.
A Florida statute called the “Justifiable Use of Force” allows residents to use “deadly force” against a threat.
“A person who is in a dwelling or residence in which the person has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use or threaten to 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,” the statute states.