WINTER HAVEN, FL (WFLA) – It started as an evening out with coworkers and ended with one of them dead. “The entire community is a little bit heartbroken over it,” said Sarah Monti, a former classmate of the victim’s.
Four co-workers stopped at Floridino’s Restaurant, a usual dinner spot for the group. But this time, the conversation got a little heated.
“It was about work,” Jamie Brown with Winter Haven Police Department said.
It happened on Friday after 6:30 p.m. in Winter Haven. A caller told the 911 dispatcher that there was a man lying on the ground in the parking lot and a group of people standing next to him. Paramedics and police responded to the call.
According to police, Sherrick Forrester, 25, Ryan Donley, 24, Omar Marrero, 27, and the victim, 24-year-old Steven Bradley Smith, were at the restaurant after their shifts at the Aldi Distribution Center.
The four walked out to the parking lot. Officers said at some point there was a physical fight between Smith and Marrero outside, but nobody saw it or heard any yelling.
When Donley and Forrester were by their cars, they saw Smith on the ground. They rushed to help him. They told deputies Marrero got in his car and drove away.
Paramedics performed CPR on Smith and took him to a hospital, where he later died.
Detectives found Marrero and asked him about the argument. He told them the fight got physical when he reached out to Smith in a non-aggressive way trying to make amends. Smith slapped his hand and Marrero hit him in self-defense, the latter told law enforcement.
“Marrero left the scene. He told … detectives that he was in fear that they were going to attack him,” Brown said.
Friends who knew Smith are puzzled. “He’s definitely a very genuine person. He was very quiet and reserved, so it was very shocking I think to a lot of people to hear that this happened,” Monti said.
With no other witnesses, police have their work cut out for them.
“It is our duty to make sure that every T is crossed and every I is dotted, because we don’t have an independent witness,” Brown said.
The preliminary report from the ME shows that Smith’s injuries are consistent with someone hitting his head on the pavement.
Detectives continue to investigate this death. They are asking anybody who was in the area of Floridino on 8th Street and saw something strange to contact Sgt. Garrett Boyd at (863) 401-2256.
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