'Sovereign citizen' shot dead by Orange County deputies identified

Joseph Paffen killed after shooting at deputies, officials say

Joseph Paffen.
Joseph Paffen.

ORLNADO, Fla. – A self-described "sovereign citizen" who was shot and killed by Orange County sheriff's deputies outside a Publix in Orlando has been identified.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office said on Tuesday that Joseph Paffen, 46, was shot dead by deputies, who returned fire after Paffen shot at them.

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

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Paffen was in an estranged relationship with a woman who had filed an injunction against him. Paffen 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.

Court records obtained by Local 6 show the woman claimed Paffen sexually assaulted her at his home in November.

She also claimed Paffen beat her husband with a baseball bat in January.

"He is stalking me," she wrote to the court. "Joseph is obsessed with me. I am scared for my life and my husband's life."

She also warned the court about Paffen's claim that he was a "sovereign citizen," and didn't recognize the government as "legitimate."

"He is aggressive and very violent as he is also very angry with the government," she wrote to the court. "He also has a stockpile of guns, ammunition, food, water, medications, and first aid items.

"Joseph has made statements that he could take on the entire police force swat or other enforcement and that he will kill. He also says the military has trained him right to kill," she wrote.

The woman was granted a permanent restraining order on January 31, but she agreed to meet him in the Publix parking lot on Sunday.

When deputies arrived at her request, investigators say Paffen immediately opened fire.

One deputy was shot in the leg and another was injured by broken glass, but both are OK, officials said.

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

According to records, Paffen was arrested in Orange County in 2007 on charges of counterfeiting a license plate, driving while on a suspended license and not having a motor vehicle registration.

Five officers were placed on administrative leave following the shooting, which is standard procedure.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting.

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