INTERLACHEN, Fla. – A 61-year-old woman is in intensive care at a Gainesville hospital the hospital after being shot several times in an exchange of gunfire with a Putnam County sheriff's deputy early Monday morning.
According to Sgt. Hancel Woods, the shooting happened about 3:30 a.m. at 131 Twin Lakes Grove Drive in Interlachen.
Investigators said Diana Conner called 911 and said she thought someone was outside her house messing with her well and air conditioner.
"She's been worried about her phone being tapped, and people going around the house trying to get in" said Loran Conner, Diana Conner's brother-in-law. "She's always been a little paranoid, and I figure since my brother passed away she probably progressed and got worse."
When a deputy responded to her home, she refused to go to the door. The woman called dispatch again and her next door neighbor. Both confirmed a deputy was at her door, but she refused to come out of her home.
"She said, 'the police are out here, but I'm not sure it's the police,'" said her neighbor Jackie Price. "I looked out the window and said, 'yes it is the police, they're in a sheriff's car.'"
After failing to make contact with the woman, the deputy left the home.
Sgt. Woods said Conner began continuously calling her neighbors telling them people were outside her house and they were not deputies.
Conner's neighbors eventually called 911 and told dispatch they wanted deputies to go back to the woman's home so she would stop calling them.
Two Putnam County Deputies went back to the home to try to make contact with the woman. That's when deputies said she walked out of her home with a rifle. Uniformed deputies identified themselves as law enforcement asking her to put down the weapon, but said she refused and opened fire on them with a rifle.
Sgt. Woods said Deputy Thomas Burger returned fire with his agency issued pistol, striking Conner four times. Woods said he did it in defense of his own life, as well as his partner's life.
Burger was put on paid administrative leave, which is standard protocol as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the shooting.
Woods said Burger was relieved from duty in 2011 after damaging his patrol car. He was travelling 124 mph in a 45 mph zone, responding to a call.
Woods said he was gone for a year, and was rehired. He said Sheriff Jeff Hardy felt Burger had learned from his mistake and deserved another chance.
"He has been, I can vouch for the fact, a model employee since he's come back," said Woods.
So far, Woods says Burger did everything he was trained to do in this incident.
"I can promise you, every law enforcement officer would hope they can go through their entire career ... and never have to be involved in an incident like this," said Sgt. Woods. "But sometimes it's forced upon you, and it is unfortunate for all parties concerned."
Conner was transported to UF Shands Trauma Center in Gainesville for surgery. The deputies were not hit during the shooting.