Off-duty deputy’s daughter called 911 after mom shot ax-wielding intruder

Orange County deputy had suspect cuffed, detained when backup arrived

Off-duty deputy’s daughter called 911 after mom shot ax-wielding intruder
Off-duty deputy’s daughter called 911 after mom shot ax-wielding intruder

APOPKA, Fla. – A 13-year-old girl called 911 moments after her mother, an off-duty Orange County deputy, shot a man who smashed an ax through the back door of their Apopka home, according to an arrest report.

Orange County deputy Bridget Erwin told her fellow deputies she was lying down in her bedroom around 5 p.m. Tuesday when she heard a knock at the door.

“It wasn’t at the front door," Erwin said she heard her 13-year-old say.

Erwin said she heard a banging sound get louder until she heard glass break. The off-duty deputy said she heard her children screaming as she ran to get her department-issued firearm.

Erwin told the man who had broken through the glass back door using an ax that she was with the Sheriff’s Office and told him to drop the ax. She said she the suspect, Steven Thayer, out of fear for her life, according to the report.

After she shot Thayer, Erwin told one of her children to grab her handcuffs. She was able to handcuff and secure Thayer until the other deputies arrived.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina defended his deputy’s actions after the incident.

“She was in fear for her life and the lives of her children, so she shot the suspect multiple times,” Mina said.

Deputies said Thayer, 40, previously attempted to break into another nearby home in the Rolling Oaks neighborhood moments before smashing through the backdoor of Erwin’s home. Other deputies were responding to that call when a neighbor flagged them down to say they heard shots coming from the off-duty deputy’s home.

A man who told News 6 his name is John said Thayer broke inside his home, too.

“I hear my door slammed and by the time I look over to my stairs, there’s somebody at the top of my stairs,” John said.

He said he fought with Thayer after seeing him in his house. He said Thayer made his way inside through his garage door.

“Me and him started wrestling and I’m like, ‘Get out of my house’ and I pushed him down the stairs,” John said.

He said the unknown man ended up jumping off of his balcony in his backyard, before breaking inside the off-duty deputy’s house only a few homes away.

“All of a sudden I hear pop pop pop, three gunfire,” John said. “I knew she just went through the academy and everything and I said to myself, ‘Dude you’re going to the wrong house.’”

Deputies said they could hear yelling as they approached Erwin’s home and entered to find the off-duty deputy pointing her firearm at the man who was secured on the floor.

Thayer is in stable condition. He is facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and armed burglary of an occupied dwelling with a deadly weapon.

Thayer has previous arrests in 2011 and 2006 for battery and domestic violence, court records show.

News 6 stopped by a listed address trying to get reaction from Thayer’s family and friends, but no one answered. His neighbors said they're shocked.

“That’s not like him. I’ve never heard him speak of violence,” neighbor Mike Graffis said.

Erwin has been a sworn member of the agency since May of 2018. She was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the shooting, which is standard procedure when a deputy fires their weapon.

There will also be an internal investigation at the Sheriff’s Office when they receive the FDLE findings.

About the Author:

Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Emilee hosts the Edward R. Murrow Award-winning podcast Space Curious. Previously, she was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a web producer at the Naples Daily News.