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Lakeland man charged with second-degree murder after shooting

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Posted at 12:36 PM, May 18, 2021

LAKELAND, Fla. — A man from Lakeland is facing a second-degree murder charge after a deadly shooting on Monday night in Mulberry that involved a towed vehicle and an argument.

According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Michael Denn, 29, shot and killed a man after an argument at his business Strapped Transport Towing and Recovery. The shooting happened just after 6 p.m.

Authorities say the victim, who has not been identified, went to the business to get a vehicle back that was towed the day before. The sheriff's office says the victim was told he would have to wait for the tow truck to get back to pull his vehicle out of the lot.

According to an affidavit, Denn arrived back at the business with the tow truck and asked the victim to wait off of the business property for the vehicle. That's when authorities say an argument started between the victim and a relative of Denn, who has also not been identified.

It's unclear at this time what the argument between the men was about.

The sheriff's office says the victim drove a separate vehicle to the business. According to authorities, the victim backed that vehicle into the roadway to remove it from the business property. When the victim was in the road, the sheriff's office says Denn's relative approached the driver's side window and started to punch the victim in the face as he sat in the vehicle.

Authorities say when the victim would try to exit the vehicle, Denn's relative would shut the driver's door to prevent him from getting out. The sheriff's office says Denn's relative continued to punch the victim.

The victim was able to put his vehicle in gear and drove down the road to get away from Denn's relative, according to the sheriff's office. When the victim was down the road, authorities say he turned the vehicle around and accelerated toward Denn's relative who was standing with Denn in the road.

The sheriff's office says the victim hit Denn's relative with the vehicle. He was sent airborne and landed in front of the business. Denn's relative was taken to Lakeland Regional Health where authorities say he is currently in stable condition.

Authorities say the victim then got out of the vehicle and tried to run toward the trunk of the vehicle and away from Denn. As the man got out of the vehicle, authorities say Denn fired three rounds at him.

The sheriff's office says the third round hit the victim in the right side of the head, slightly behind and above the right ear.

In an affidavit, the sheriff's office said the evidence suggests that Denn was tracking the victim and shot him as he attempted to run away.

"The location of the casings recovered at the crime scene, the strike mark from a projectile on a residence located behind the decedent's vehicle, the gunshot entry wound to the right side of the decedent's head, and the positioning of the decedent's body suggest 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 affidavit says.

Denn told authorities he didn't witness the victim with any weapons and he was unable to say where the victim's hands were when he got out of the vehicle. The sheriff's office added that Denn did not hear the victim make any threats when he got out of the vehicle.

Denn was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The victim was pronounced dead at Lakeland Regional Health just before 7 p.m.