Road rage incident turns deadly in Winter Haven

A road rage incident turned deadly Saturday night when a motorist shot and killed another motorist in Winter Haven, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators said the deceased man, who was unarmed, was the driver of a pickup truck traveling east on Lake Ned Road and a man and a woman were behind him in an SUV. 

The occupants of the SUV told the sheriff's office that the pickup came to a sudden stop, which forced the SUV to quickly brake. Detectives said the couple told them that the driver then approached the SUV, cursing about them following too closely and saying that he should kill them.  He returned to the truck, turned around, and began walking back toward the SUV, investigators said.

“He walks back toward his truck, then comes back to the SUV, and at this point the male and female are saying that they're fearing for their lives, they're thinking this guy is going to kill them,” Brian Bruchey with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

Detectives said the driver of the grabbed a firearm from a dash compartment, pointed it out of his window toward the other driver, and fired. The female passenger called 911.

According to detectives, witnesses told them that they heard three gunshots, with one of the witnesses saying he heard a man yell, "I don't want to kill you!" and a female yell, "Don't kill him, don't kill him," investigators said. 

The two occupants of the SUV remained at the scene for law enforcement to arrive. The pickup truck driver was taken to a Winter Haven hospital, where he died a short time later. 

Curt Brocklesby, a neighbor of the deceased man, says he heard the gunshots Saturday night, but thought it was from a few houses away, where a family has a gun range in their backyard.

“Gunfire is pretty common over there,” he said. “So that night, I heard what sounded like three gunshots, 'bam bam bam.' I didn’t think anything of it, until Sunday, when a friend of ours stopped us and let us know what happened.”

He says it’s a big shame that someone died.

"He's not an aggressive guy,” he said of his neighbor.  “He might have gotten upset. I don't know what was going on with him but, It's just a shame that it happened because it shouldn't have."

The investigation is in the initial phase and detectives are seeking further evidence to corroborate the victim's statements. Detectives will then present their investigation to the State Attorney's Office.

Anyone who might have information related to the case is asked to contact the Polk County Sheriff's Office at 863-298-6200.