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Mar 26, 2024

Polk County Sheriff's Office investigating fatal shooting in unincorporated Polk County near Bowling Green

Media Contact: Carrie Horstman, Administrator

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is investigating a fatal shooting that occurred on Monday, March 25, 2024, in the unincorporated area of Bowling Green, south of Fort Meade.

Samuel RiveraAround 9:30 a.m. that morning, the PCSO ECC received a 911 call from 41-year-old Jose Rivera, Sr., of Wauchula, who told the call-taker that he had just shot his brother in self-defense at a harvesting business where Jose works, located at 290 Old Bowling Green Road. When first responders arrived, they found 32-year-old Samuel Rivera (his 2022 Polk County Jail mugshot is seen here) with three gunshot wounds on his body. They rendered first aid and rushed him to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

According to the witnesses and the investigation so far, Samuel had an argument with Jose at a family party on Sunday regarding Samuel wanting to borrow a family member's four-wheeler. Jose would not allow Samuel to borrow it due to the fact that Samuel previously battered the owner of the four-wheeler back in June 2023.

On Monday morning, Samuel told different family members that he was still angry with Jose about being denied the four-wheeler, and that he was going to "beat his a**." Samuel also called the owner of the four-wheeler and threatened him. Samuel went to Jose's place of business (Samuel did not work there) Monday morning prior to Jose arriving. When Jose arrived, Samuel immediately and violently confronted Jose, who recently had significant eye surgery.

Jose kept his hands in his pockets as Samuel attacked him. This was witnessed by several others at the scene. While being actively punched on his body, head, and his back, Jose retrieved a handgun from inside his truck. Samuel grabbed the gun and a struggle for possession over the firearm ensued, at which point one round was fired, striking Samuel on the top of his foot. Samuel looked down at his foot, then aggressively charged Jose again with his fists clenched. Jose then shot Samuel two times in his upper body.

Samuel is a registered violent felony offender in Florida and was on probation at the time this crime occurred, for possession of a weapon or ammunition by a convicted felon and drug possession. His criminal history includes 12 previous felonies and 4 previous misdemeanors dating back to 2012. In 2015, he was sentenced to five years in prison for aggravated stalking (Hardee County).

"This investigation is still ongoing, but based on witnesses at the scene, it appears that Samuel Rivera, a violent and out-of-control convicted felon, through his own actions, created such an element of fear that the victim was forced to protect himself with a firearm. Trying to solve a dispute with violence never ends well." - Grady Judd, Sheriff