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Deputies search for Riverview shooter

RIVERVIEW — Deputies are searching for the shooter in Tuesday's melee that killed Latin Life gang member Gregorio Santana, 23, and critically injured his twin brother.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has issued a warrant for Mario Mercado, 21, of 12502 Elnora Drive in Riverview, charging him with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.

This is what deputies say happened:

Tuesday evening, a group that included several gang members started arguing outside the Life Saver convenience store in Riverview. The group left but continued arguing in front of a home on Glenshire Drive.

During the fight, West Side gang member Christopher Sanchez, 22, was hit with a beer bottle thrown by an unknown person. Mercado then pulled out a pistol and opened fire on Gregorio Santana and his twin brother, Felix Santana, the Sheriff's Office said. Mercado then fled in a car driven by Sanchez.

At 6:11 p.m., deputies arrived at the scene and found the twins. Gregorio Santana was dead. His brother was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he was listed Wednesday in critical condition.

A few minutes later, deputies arrived at a nearby fire station on Big Bend Road, where Sanchez had driven. He had severe lacerations from the beer bottle. Court records say he appeared to have been stabbed in the neck.

Deputies saw three other people in the car, but they ran away as a deputy tried to help Sanchez. The deputies were able to find all the men except Mercado.

Deputies say it's unclear if Tuesday's dispute was a fight between rival gangs. They know the Santana brothers were both members of the Latin Life gang. And they say that Sanchez is a member of the West Side gang.

State records show that in 2006, Gregorio Santana spent just over eight months in prison for grand theft motor vehicle, and that in 2007, Felix Santana spent nine months in prison for cocaine delivery, burglary and grand theft.

The Sheriff's Office asked anyone with information on Mercado's whereabouts to call (813) 247-8200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477.

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Deputies search for Riverview shooter 10/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 10:47pm]
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