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Suspected getaway car driver in 2009 Bradenton gang killings held without bond

MANATEE -- The suspected getaway driver in a 2009 double slaying of rival gang members was ordered held without bond Thursday.

Eduardo Milian, 25, was arrested at 6:01 p.m. Wednesday while in a vehicle in a McDonald's restaurant parking lot in the 3700 block of Cortez Road West in Bradenton. Milian is charged with two counts of being an accessory after the fact.

Milian appeared before Manatee County Judge Robert Farrance in court via video conference for a first appearance hearing.

The Public Defender's Office was appointed to Milian's case. Milian was reminded not to make any statements regarding the case to anyone except the investigator.

On July 3, 2009, 18-year-olds Irwin Figueroa and Rudy Garduno were shot to death while walking in the 1100 block of 59th Avenue Drive East in Bradenton. Moments before, Figueroa, Garduno and a third gang member had an altercation with four rival gang members, including the shooter and Milian, according to court documents.

The suspected shooter is in state prison serving a lengthy sentence on unrelated charges, according to sheriff's office homicide detective Jeffrey Bliss. The sheriff's office is working with the State Attorney's Office to file formal charges against the suspected gunman.

Other suspects could also

face charges.

Milian's arrest warrant details the investigation leading to his arrest.

Several spent .223-caliber rifle shell casings were found at the scene after the shootings. Two bandanas on the victims matched the color of a third found in the yard of an adjacent property, according to the complaint. The victims were documented gang members.

A baseball cap bearing the name of a rival gang was also found near the victims. Milian was a known member of the rival gang.

During a canvass of the neighborhood after the shooting, a witness told investigators he heard loud booms from his home and saw a man run off after standing over the two victims.

Detectives later identified the person seen by the witness and said he was not a suspect in the shooting.

Key dates of the investigation include:

July 6, 2009: A second witness told detectives he saw three men fighting with occupants of a large brown Cadillac in the area of 11th Street West and 59th Avenue Drive East. He said the three men were walking east on 59th Avenue Drive East when the brown Cadillac car passed and words were exchanged.

As the three neared the 12th Street East intersection, the brown Cadillac passed them again, turned around and the front-seat passenger got out and started shooting, the witness said.

July 14, 2009: Bud Johnson, former lead detective in the case, interviewed the man seen by the first witness running from the scene. The subject admitted to being with Figueroa and Garduno but denied any confrontation with rival gang members. He said the front passenger in the car shot at them with a long gun.

Oct. 6, 2009: Detectives interviewed a third witness at Manatee County jail who said he spoke with the shooter at Milian's home and he admitted to killing Figueroa and Garduno with an assault rifle.

Nov. 20, 2009: The lead detective was contacted by Garduno's father and given a cell phone from an unknown source who claimed the third witness gave him the phone saying it had been dropped at the scene during the shooting. The phone was traced to Milian.

A search of Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles records revealed Milian owned a 1998 brown four-door Cadillac sedan.

May 2013: The case was assigned to Bliss after Johnson left the homicide unit. Bliss interviewed a fourth witness at Manatee County jail who claimed the shooter had been with Milian in his car. After the shooting, the witness said Milian was crying because he left his cell phone at the scene and the shooter was worried because he left his hat.

The fourth witness told Bliss the shooting was done with an AR-15 stolen during a burglary near McKechnie Field in Bradenton. Bliss found a matching burglary case.

July 22, 2013: Detectives interviewing Milian outside his home reported he was extremely nervous and referred them to his attorney. He did not deny his cell phone was at the scene but said he would not take the fall for what "those guys did."

Aug. 14, 2013: Detectives interviewed another witness who said he saw Milian before and after the shooting. The witness told detectives Milian had recently named the shooter.

After another interview with the third victim, Bliss reinterviewed the third witness who spoke of the conversation at Milian's apartment in which the shooter admitted killing Figueroa and Garduno. Milian was present during the conversation, the third witness said, and agreed to what was said.

June 6: Bliss interviewed Milian's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his children who said she hadn't seen him since he spoke with detectives. She told Bliss he was upset after being interviewed by detectives and fled to Mexico two days later.

Bliss confirmed Milian crossed into Mexico days after being interviewed by detectives through the Department of Homeland Security. He later returned to the United States.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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