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Gunman outside bar kills one, injures another

MANATEE — One man is dead and another lies in an intensive care unit after an alleged gang member opened fire in a bar parking lot early Saturday.

Rodrigo Vasquez, 20, died a few hours after being shot at 1a.m. in the parking lot of La Escondida Night Club, 5524 14th St. W.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives, who were near the club when the shooting took place, found Vasquez bleeding in the back seat of a Buick.

They performed CPR on him and he was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he died at about 4:30 a.m.

Another man was shot and is hospitalized after friends drove him to the emergency room at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Samuel Castro, 31, was shot once through his lower torso. He remained alert but on a respirator, according to relatives.

About a dozen relatives and friends anxiously remained in the waiting room as nurses changed his bandages Saturday afternoon.

“He phoned me at 1:19 a.m. He just told me he was shot and that he loved me, and he loved the kids. He said he was trying to stay alive for his kids,” said Yajaira Santiago, Castro’s girlfriend with whom he shares a 14-month-old son.

Castro is friends with the gunman, who detectives are still searching for, according to relatives. Authorities have not released the gunman’s identity. Family members said they were surprised to hear who the gunman was from witnesses at the scene.

A previously issued arrest warrant for the suspect documents him as a member of the SUR-13 gang.

“From what we heard, when he’s under the influence, he pretty much snaps,” said Juan Gonzalez, Castro’s brother-in-law.

Castro’s family said they did not know Vasquez. Castro has resided in Bradenton off and on for the past 10 years.

According to authorities, there were about five men inside the night club, including Castro and Vasquez, who were acquaintances. The men also appear to be gang affiliates, detectives said.

The gunman became upset with one of the men because he did not like one of the people in the bar. He reportedly kicked the chair of Albert Morales, who he was upset with, and said, “Let’s take it outside,” according to the report.

Morales and the gunman went outside to fight in the parking lot, with people in the bar following. The five men began walking to their cars parked next door at Value Pawn.

The gunman went to a gold Nissan Maxima and emerged with a firearm. He opened fire, striking two of the men and several buildings, then left.

Kelly Tyson, owner of La Escondida, said she was working behind the bar when the men came in. She said the men were unknown to her and were there only a short time before the shooting occurred outside.

Tyson said she has plans to install surveillance cameras next week and hire off duty deputies.

“I just want to prevent any problems. Our bouncers can only do so much,” she said.

Vasquez’s death marks the 11th homicide in Manatee County this year. Five of those cases remain without arrests. Last year, there were a total of 17 homicides.

Anyone with any information about the shootings can contact Detective Debra Kirkland at 747-3011, ext. 2557, or remain anonymous by calling Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.

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