MULBERRY, Fla. (WFLA) — The owner of a towing company in Polk County is facing a second-degree murder charge after deputies say he shot and killed a customer Monday night after an argument broke out about an impounded vehicle and escalated into a violent situation.
Deputies with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office were called to Virginia Street in Mulberry around 6:15 p.m. Monday for reports of a shooting. When they got to the scene, deputies say they found a man in the front yard of a business, Strapped Transport Towing and Recovery, with an apparent gunshot wound to the head.
Another man, also in the front yard, appeared to have been hit by a vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office.
According to sheriff’s office investigators, the man who was shot, identified by deputies as 36-year-old Juan Barroso, went to Strapped Transport Towing and Recovery on Monday night to get his vehicle that had been impounded over the weekend. While he was there, employees told him he’d have to wait until the tow truck was back at the business to pull his vehicle out of the impound lot.
When the owner of the business, 29-year-old Michael Shane Denn, returned with the tow truck, he allegedly asked the customer to leave the business property to wait for his vehicle. That’s when deputies say an argument broke out between Barroso and the business owner’s brother.
The sheriff’s office says Barroso got back into the vehicle he arrived in and backed into the road. Deputies say the suspect’s brother then approached the vehicle and started punching Barroso while he was in the driver’s seat.
According to the sheriff’s office, Barroso was able to put the vehicle in gear and drive away from the man punching him, but then turned around and accelerated toward the two brothers, who were both standing in the road. Deputies say the brother was hit, which sent him flying into the front yard of the business.
When Barroso got out of his vehicle and allegedly tried to run away, deputies say Michael Shane Denn fired three rounds at him. The third round hit the customer in the head near his right ear, according to the sheriff’s office.
Polk County Fire Rescue took the customer and the business owner’s brother to Lakeland Regional Health. Barroso was pronounced dead just before 7 p.m. The brother is still being treated and is expected to be OK.
A news release from the sheriff’s office says evidence collected at the scene suggests “the decedent exited his vehicle and was running away from the suspect, not towards the suspect, when the suspect fired his firearm at the decedent.”
“The evidence at the scene suggests the suspect was tracking the decedent and shooting at the decedent as the decedent was attempting to flee the roadway and seek cover from the suspect,” the release said.
Deputies say Denn told them he did not see the customer with any weapons at any time during the incident. He also told them he didn’t hear the customer make any threats or say anything else when he got out of his vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office.
Denn was arrested and charged with second-degree murder after deputies say they determined he intentionally fired at the victim who was running away.