MARION COUNTY, Fla. — A Marion County man is accused of shooting and killing a former Citrus County deputy who had a retirement job filling propane tanks.
Steven Swearingen, 38, is charged with the murder of 52-year-old Steven Smolensky around 9:45 a.m. Tuesday in Weirsdale, Florida.
Investigators say Smolensky was working for Suburban Propane and had been making a delivery to Swearingen's house on SE. 180th Street. During that delivery, an affidavit says Smolensky called 911 to say Swearingen was holding him at gunpoint and not letting him leave or return to his truck.
During the 911 call, the affidavit indicates Smolensky can be heard saying "Oh s--t he just shot me" before several more gunshots ring out. Responding deputies found Smolensky dead with a gunshot wound to the head. He was about 50 feet away from his marked work truck. Investigators say he was wearing a Suburban Propane jacket.
According to the affidavit, Swearingen may have mistakenly believed Smolensky was trying to steal the propane or fill the home with it.
Investigators say Swearingen told them Smolensky only had a phone in his hands at the time of the shooting. Detectives say there is no evidence Swearingen fired the gun in self-defense. They add that Swearingen changed clothes after killing Smolensky "but could not provide a reasonable explanation as to why."
Swearingen is no stranger to law enforcement. He has a prior felony conviction for resisting an officer with violence. At the time of the shooting, deputies said he also had non-extraditable active warrants out of Ohio for failure to appear.
In addition to the second-degree murder charge, Swearingen is charged with false imprisonment and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. As of Wednesday, he was being held without bond in the Marion County Jail.
Smolensky served the Citrus County Sheriff's office from June 1992 to June 2017, Sheriff Mike Prendergast said in a statement.
"During his 25 year tenure, he received multiple commendations including service awards, a judicial services unit citation, perfect attendance awards, and letters of commendation that include professionalism, kindness, and caring," the sheriff said of Smolensky.
"...We will keep the Smolensky family in our thoughts and prayers as we respect their privacy at this time."
On Facebook, the South Florida Cops page expressed condolences to Smolensky's family and friends. The post says Smolensky retired several years ago after a 25-year career with the agency.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Retired Deputy Smolensky’s family, friends, Suburban Propane, and the Sheriff’s Office during this difficult time and we thank him for his service," South Florida Cops wrote.