'He just shot me.' Propane deliveryman, a former deputy, narrates fatal encounter to 911

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WEIRSDALE — A propane gas deliveryman was shot and killed Tuesday during a bizarre standoff outside a southeast Marion County home.

The accused shooter told a detective and his father he thought the deliveryman either intended to pump propane into the home or was there to steal propane.

The deliveryman, who was a retired Citrus County Sheriff's deputy, called 911 and narrated the fatal standoff to a dispatcher. He even used law enforcement code.

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Steven Alan Swearingen, 38, is charged with second-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and false imprisonment. He is being held without bail at the Marion County Jail.

The suspect was asleep when the propane gas deliveryman arrived Tuesday morning

According to Marion County Sheriff's Detective Andrew Canterberry's arrest affidavit, Swearingen said he was asleep about 9:40 a.m. Tuesday when he heard the dogs barking.

He said he knew there was a gun in the house and grabbed it. Swearingen said he went outside, saw the victim, and asked him what he was doing.

He said the man, later identified as Steven Smolensky, told him he was there to fill the propane tank. Smolensky started to walk toward his Suburban Propane truck, which was parked outside the home, but Swearingen told the man he wasn't "going nowhere."

Steven Smolensky
Steven Smolensky

Then "I (expletive) shot him," Swearingen told the detective, according to the affidavit. Swearingen told the detective that the victim was only holding a cellphone.

Swearingen told the detective he thought the man intended to pump propane into the house. Swearingen told his father, Ricky, a different story. According to the affidavit, during the standoff with the deliveryman, Swearingen called his father and said he thought the man was there to steal propane.

The father – who could hear the deliveryman's voice in the background – told his son that propane deliveries were common, according to the affidavit. The younger Swearingen had lived at that location, in the 15000 block of Southeast 180th Street, for only two weeks.

Steven Smolensky, a retired deputy, narrated the fatal encounter to a 911 dispatcher

Smolensky, 52, called 911 when Steven Swearingen approached him with a gun, according to the affidavit.

During that 911 call, Smolensky told the dispatcher he was at the residence to deliver propane. He gave the dispatcher a detailed description of the gunman and the gun. He also gave the dispatcher Swearingen's first name.

Smolensky asked the dispatcher when deputies would arrive. He used the term 10-52, which is the law enforcement code for estimated time of arrival, according to the affidavit.

The dispatcher heard a man, believed to be Swearingen, telling Smolensky to "get off the (expletive) phone now." Smolensky told the gunman he was on the phone with 911.

Not long after that, the dispatcher heard Smolensky say: "Oh (expletive) he just shot me," followed by several more shots.

Detectives said Smolensky was shot in the head, neck, arm and upper torso. Deputies recovered a Taurus 9mm handgun on the ground not far from the victim.

Swearingen told the detective that he's not on drugs or crazy, according to the affidavit.

The father said once he arrived at the house, his son said: "I shot the man." The man said his son never should have "pulled that trigger."

Steven Smolensky served 25 years with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office said Smolensky served at the agency from June 8, 1992, until his retirement on June 15, 2017.

During that time he served as a deputy sheriff, duty officer, civil deputy, and in judicial and juvenile services.

Smolensky's personnel file includes 21 letters of commendation/appreciation, perfect attendance awards, and a commemorative service award.

He received a bachelor of science degree in management from the University of Phoenix in December 2011.

Swearingen's next court date will be in January

At a first appearance hearing, held Wednesday morning in front of County Judge Tommy Thompson, Assistant State Attorney Michael Kotsifakis said that, based on the charges, his office wanted Swearingen held without bail.

The prosecutor said Swearingen has an Ohio warrant for resisting with violence and disorderly. The warrant did not seek extradition.

Thompson said that, given the severity of the offenses and a concern for flight risk, he would deny bail. Swearingen requested and received a public defender to represent him.

His next court date is scheduled for January 2022.

The sheriff's office investigated 17 murders in 2020. As of Wednesday, it had investigated 23 homicides so far this year.

Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118, austin.miller@starbanner.com or @almillerosb.

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Ex-Florida deputy killed while working as propane deliveryman

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