Argument with co-worker leaves Auburndale man dead

- An argument between co-workers turned violent, leaving an Auburndale man dead.

It happened Friday night outside Floridino's Italian Kitchen in Winter Haven.

The Medical Examiner in Hillsborough County said 24-year-old Steven Smith, who goes by "Bradley" died from hitting his head on the pavement after being punched by 27-year-old Omar Marrero.

Marrero claims he did it in "self-defense."  With no witnesses, investigators are now working to determine if that was truly the case.

Four co-workers from the ALDI Distribution Warehouse in Haines City stopped by Floridino's restaurant Friday night after their shift ended.

The manager knows them as regulars. To hear them talk about work, ethics and who was a better employee didn't seem out of the ordinary to staff. But, what happened when they left was.

25-year-old Sherrick Forrester, 24-year-old Ryan Donley walked out first, followed by Smith and Marrero.

"As Marrero and Smith walked out of the restaurant, there obviously was some sort of verbal exchange," said Winter Haven Police Public Information Officer Jamie Brown. "Mr. Marrero states that he was trying to calm the situation and just make sure everything was okay between him and Mr. Smith."

Marrero told detectives he reached out in a "non-aggressive manner" to make amends, but Smith "slapped his hand away." That's when Marrero said he punched Smith in "self-defense." Smith hit the ground hard, next to his truck that remains in the parking lot.

"Nobody actually saw this happen," Brown said. "We have no witnesses whatsoever. The two gentlemen that were with them who had exited the restaurant prior to Marrero and Smith, they did not see anything. They just saw Mr. Smith lying on the ground and immediately went over to render aid."

As others rushed over to help, Marrero drove away.  Detectives later tracked him down to hear his story.   He has an arrest back in 2013 for aggravated battery on a pregnant woman.  Police will now determine if this incident was self-defense or a crime.

"Marrero at this point is the only one we can get a statement from," Brown said.

Smith's family and friends are left with a lot of pain and questions. His grandmother Kay says they're crushed. She said her grandson, an Auburndale High School grad, was a hard worker, loved hunting and loved his job.
She's waiting to know what really happened in that parking lot.

Winter Haven police don't have much to go on. There were no cameras outside the restaurant and no witnesses.

At this point, there have been no charges filed.  If you were around Floridino's Friday around 6:30 p.m. and saw anything unusual, investigators want to hear from you. Call Sgt. Garrett Boyd at 863-401-2256.
 

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