CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – New details are emerging in the murder case involving a retired Citrus County Sheriff’s deputy.
Steve Smolensky worked as a sheriff’s deputy in Citrus County for 25-years before retiring in 2017. After he retired, he decided to pick up a job with Suburban Propane and was delivering propane in Marion County when he was shot and killed.
The shooting happened at a mobile home at 15055 S.E. 180th Street in Weirsdale, just southeast of Ocala in Marion County. It’s a home on a rural dirt road where homes are spaced far apart.
Smolensky arrived at the home before 9:45 a.m. to make a propane delivery. He was greeted by 38-year old Steven Swearingen. Sgt. Paul Bloom, with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, describes the meeting as unpleasant.
“Armed with a weapon, and starts yelling at him and starts a confrontation,” said Sgt. Bloom. “Enough to cause the victim to call 911 and reach out to us. ” Sgt. Bloom says Smolensky tried to deescalate the situation, all while on the phone with a 911 operator. “He just says, you know what, I’m just going to leave. And he’s trying to get to his truck and he’s prevented from doing so and ultimately, while he’s on the phone with 911 he was tragically shot and killed.”
Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast says there are many deputies and other employees still on the force who worked with Deputy Smolensky.
“There are people here who started here before he did and are still around,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “They’re taking it very hard. They’re taking it very hard because it could happen to any one of us.”
Marion County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Swearingen. He’s facing charges for second-degree murder, felon in possession of a firearm and false imprisonment.
He made his first court appearance this afternoon and the judge ordered that he be held without bond.
According to court documents, initially he told detectives he thought Smolensky was stealing propane and then he told them he shot Smolensky because he thought Smolensky was going to fill his house with propane.
Sgt. Bloom says detectives have not been able to come up with a clear motive for what happened.
“The biggest question is why? Why an unprovoked attack and I can tell you, we don’t know,” said Sgt. Bloom. “We’re searching for that ourselves.”