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Resident acted in self-defense in armed burglary shooting, deputies say

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Authorities identified a neighborhood man who acted to protect his property when he shot and wounded a would-be burglar, deputies said. The burglar also was identified.

Deputies identified the resident as 25-year-old Taylor Reese and the suspect as 19-year-old Howard Bartee III. Reese told deputies he and Bartee exchanged gunfire after Bartee came to his home and began to kick in his door.

“Last night’s shooting incident should be a warning to would-be burglars. Many residents of Indian River County are armed and prepared to protect their property,” said Sheriff Deryl Loar. “Those who commit these crimes will have to face the consequences of their actions. Based on our preliminary review of the evidence, Mr. Reese was defending himself and his property.”

A white pickup truck could be seen in the driveway of the home in the 300 block of 14th Place Southwest in south county, west of U.S. 1 and south of Oslo Road. Reese was not at the home Friday afternoon.

Reese told deputies late Thursday he was awoken to the sound of his door being kicked in, and went to retrieve a firearm to confront the intruder. He said when he stepped just outside of his front door, he saw Bartee, who began to fire shots at Reese.

The two exchanged gunfire and Bartee was struck twice, deputies said. Bartee ran northwest from the home and collapsed in the street.

Witnesses told deputies Bartee threw a black object into the woods near the street. Deputies recovered both Reese and Bartee’s weapons at the scene.

Bartee was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce. He remains in critical condition but is expected to survive, deputies said.

Detectives are pursuing criminal charges against Bartee at this time, deputies said.

Deputies were searching for a person of interest in connection with the shooting late Thursday. On Friday, the person of interest, a 16-year-old, turned himself into authorities and was being questioned by detectives at the Sheriff’s Office.

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Witnesses Reaction

Residents said that Reese and his brother, both in their 20s, live at the home in the quiet, tree-lined neighborhood.

Caren Daughtry and her family live next door to the home. She said the sound from gunshots was loud and that she heard at least four shots.

She said Reese and his brother are responsible, respectful and hardworking young men.

“I think he was just defending himself,” said Daughtry, 62. “I think anybody in this neighborhood would’ve done the same thing.”

She said her granddaughter, who lives with her, heard the shots, went outside and saw Reese. She told Daughtry that Reese dropped his gun and told her to call 911. Reese was upset and throwing up, the granddaughter told Daughtry.

“He told her someone kicked in his door and started shooting, and he started shooting back,” Daughtry said. The granddaughter told Daughtry that she saw the suspect, Bartee, lying on the ground farther up the road near a stop sign.

She said Bartee threw an object in the woods near the street. Reese told the granddaughter that Bartee fired some rounds in the direction of Daughtry’s home, Daughtry said.

He asked the granddaughter if her baby was okay. Daughtry said she looked at the home and didn’t see any bullet holes.

The Daughtry family has lived in the area for 18 months.

David Wetherell, who lives two houses down from Reese, said he and his wife were in the living room when they heard the gunshots.

“We heard two pops. It was quiet for a second, and then more pops,” said Wetherell, 51. “We didn’t know what was going on. This never happens here. This is a very quiet street.”


This story will be updated. 

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