Deputies: 78-year-old man held at knifepoint opens safe, pulls out gun and shoots intruder

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WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) – Two people are dead after a home invasion robbery on Saturday – the suspect who entered the home with a butcher’s knife and a 78-year-old homeowner who tried to defend himself with a gun.

The Polk County Sheriff’s office said 25-year-old Ricardo Garcia Gomez entered the home and held Paul McLees at knifepoint while McLees opened a small safe in his den. Once the safe was open, McLees pulled a gun from it and began firing at Gomez, striking him in the chest. During the gunfire, bullet fragments hit McLees’ wife, Mary, in the knee and a separate bullet grazed her foot.

Mary McLees, 72, ran from the house and called 911. When deputies entered the house, they found the two men with gunshot wounds. McLees was declared dead at the scene. Gomez was airlifted to an area hospital, where he died early Sunday after two surgeries. Mary McLees was treated at a hospital and released.

Sheriff Grady Judd said the assumption is Gomez wrested the gun away from McLees after he was shot.

“He (McLees) had to try to seize the moment, and he did what he should of. He shot and killed the home invasion robber,” Judd said in a phone interview. “Unfortunately, he died in the process. It just breaks your heart.”

Mary McLees was 19 years old when she married her husband. The couple had two children.

“While I am so sad to have lost him, I feel so lucky to have had him for 53 years,” Mary McLees said in a statement released by the sheriff’s office.

Gomez had been arrested six times between 2009 and 2014, including on charges of domestic battery, harassing a police dog, trespassing, DUI, shoplifting and resisting arrest.

“They weren’t major league charges,” Judd said. “This guy was by and large a nonviolent offender until yesterday when he decides to commit a home invasion robbery with a butcher’s knife.”

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