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Off-duty deputy shoots ax-wielding man who broke into her Apopka home, sheriff says

Children were in home at time of shooting

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An off-duty Orange County deputy shot an ax-wielding man multiple times as he broke into her Apopka home Tuesday evening, according to Orange County Sheriff John Mina.

Mina said the deputy was at her home along with her children in the Rolling Oaks neighborhood around 5:30 p.m. when she heard someone swinging an ax at her back door.

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

The Sheriff’s Office later identified the suspect as Steven Thayer, 40. He is in stable condition and facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and armed burglary of an occupied dwelling with a deadly weapon.

After the shooting, the deputy and Thayer struggled inside the home until the deputy was able to handcuff him.

Mina said deputies were already in the area after multiple reports of attempted burglaries involving the same ax-wielding man, so authorities arrived at the deputy’s home shortly after she called for help.

Steven Thayer, 40, on left, and the axe used to break into an Apopka home. (Images: Orange County Sheriff's Office)
Steven Thayer, 40, on left, and the axe used to break into an Apopka home. (Images: Orange County Sheriff's Office)

The deputy used her department-issued weapon during the shooting, according to the sheriff. Thayer was taken to an area hospital to be treated for gunshot wounds to his extremities. He’s expected to survive.

Once the man is released from the hospital, Mina said he will be charged with at least armed burglary. He’s believed to have entered at least one other home in the subdivision in addition to the deputy’s residence.

Mina said he supports the deputy’s actions in an “extremely traumatic” situation.

“This could happen to anyone but our deputies are trained to protect ourselves, protect our communities and this person broke into a deputy’s home with an ax -- and who knows what his intentions were -- but anyone like that is going to be met with lethal force by our deputies and I think she did a great job," Mina said.

The deputy has been a sworn member of the agency since May of 2018.