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Orange County deputies shoot, kill 'sovereign citizen'

2 deputies suffer non-life-threatening injuries

ORLANDO, Fla. – Two Orange County sheriff's deputies were injured in a shooting that left a self-described "sovereign citizen" dead, according to officials.

The shooting happened outside a Publix at the intersection of Hoffner Avenue and Conway Road in Orlando.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the gunman was in an estranged relationship with a woman, who had filed an injunction against him. The man was hoping to reconcile with the woman and told her that if she got law enforcement involved, he would shoot and kill them, according to Demings.

Demings said the man claimed he was a "sovereign citizen," meaning he believed he was not bound by federal, state or local laws.

The 46-year-old gunman was located by deputies and he opened fire, Demings said.

"He fired a couple rounds that went through the rear windows of the car, barely missing him by inches," Demings said. "Deputies returned fire and mortally wounded the individual."

On Monday night, Orange County sheriff's investigators told Local 6 the man's family lives out of state, and they were trying to notify them of his death before they released his name.

Sgt. Stu Zeller was shot in the leg and taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Zeller was treated and released, Demings said. Deputy First Class David Mittiga suffered minor injuries to the face from broken glass and was treated at the scene.

Demings said it's not known how many rounds were fired in the exchange. OCSO said Deputy Steve Sherry, Deputy First Class Matt Futch and Deputy First Class Kristopher Lott fired their weapons. Deputy First Class Scott Bearns was also involved in the incident. 

Zeller is recovering at home, according to deputies, and the others involved have been placed on administrative leave.

Demings says "sovereign citizens" pose a dangerous challenge to his deputies.

"We are going to be looking at every angle of this person's existence to see if there's a connection to something more diabolical," he said.

Brett Meade, former OCSO investigator and specialist in "sovereign citizens," says this is a growing movement, especially in Central Florida.

"Every time that they deal with the government, you know law-enforcement or through the county or the state, they become more progressively into the cause and more and more disillusioned," he told Local 6.  

Shoppers at the Publix described the incident.

"I was just getting dog food and my fiance was waiting outside. I heard this 'pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.'  It was just like that," said Dan Springen.  "I looked and I said, 'Fireworks? Outside?' Then, I saw a couple running into the Publix."

Deputies said the name of the suspect is being withheld until next of kin is notified, but that the suspect referred himself as a sovereign citizen.

"We come to this Publix (and) you'd never think anything remotely close to this would happen in your neighborhood," said Springen.

Watch Local 6 News and stay with ClickOrlando.com for more on this story.


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