Four killed, two deputies shot in rampage in Tampa

TAMPA — A dispirited former trucker with a .45-caliber pistol killed his estranged wife and two of her friends Saturday morning and then shot two sheriff's deputies before another deputy killed him with a bullet to the head. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is still investigating the incident today, while one deputy remains hospitalized in fair condition. More details, including 911 recordings, may be released throughout the week, sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said.

Authorities and witnesses described a brief, bloody killing rampage.

Jorge Orlando Bello Garcia, 54, drove his rattling red pickup truck down an oak-lined street in the Cypress Bend neighborhood in Carrollwood about 9:30 a.m. Saturday. He entered the home at 11220 Elmfield Drive through an open garage door with a towel over his arm.

He confronted his wife and her friends — a firefighter captain and a massage-therapy student — on the screened-in back porch. About 9:30, neighbors said, they heard gunfire.

It was not clear Saturday what drove Garcia to kill. He made it about a half-mile south before the Hillsborough County deputies pulled him over. Their cruisers surrounded his truck on Henderson Road, just north of Linebaugh Avenue.

"Put your hands outside the window where we can see them," a deputy commanded over her cruiser's portable audio system.

"Do it now."

Garcia complied for a second, then pulled one hand inside. He poked a gun out a sliding rear window of the truck and fired about 15 rounds at the deputies. They fired back.

One of Garcia's bullets struck Deputy Art Lence in the lower torso and exited through his back. Another hit Deputy Ray Wilson in the arm.

Wilson retreated and Garcia went after him. Garcia had already been shot several times.

"This guy was like a crazed maniac," a witness, Mark Vennett of Tampa, said later. "He charged a cop with people shooting at him from every direction. He wasn't in fear of his life or anything at that point. He was just trying to take somebody out with him, I think."

Wilson crawled to a ditch on the side of the road, and Garcia lunged at him, trying to wrestle away the deputy's gun.

Then Deputy Malachi McCoy shot Garcia in the head.

Fellow deputies carried Wilson and Lence, who were bleeding severely, to a fire station about 150 feet away. Paramedics started treating them.

The deputies were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital. Lence, 53, a 17-year veteran of the force, was in fair condition late Saturday after surgery. Wilson, 55, a 26-year veteran, was treated and released.

One of the people killed on the back porch of the Carrollwood home was Hillsborough Fire Rescue Capt. Chris Artigas, 45, of Tampa. He had served 23 years with the department, and he had a wife and three children. He sang at local clubs.

"From what I heard," Chief Bill Nesmith said, "he was just outstanding."

Artigas worked from Westchase Station No. 35 on Countryway Boulevard. The flag flew at half-staff there Saturday afternoon. His street was lined with the cars of friends and firefighters.

Also killed was Regina Ann Coffaro, 44, who lived in a small West Tampa house the color of lemon sherbet. Her aunt said she was studying to become a massage therapist. She had three daughters. Her oldest, Taryn Coffaro, attended Plant High School and was a semifinalist for the 2001 St. Petersburg Times scholarship.

"She was very much loved," said her aunt, Ida Noguez.

The third person killed at the home was Garcia's wife, Gina Marie Lamantia-Bello, who turned 44 last week. She married Garcia in Tampa in 1994. Today would have been their 14th wedding anniversary.

He was born in Cuba; she was from Maryland. A family picture from about 10 years ago shows them together at Christmas time. She has big hair and a string of pearls. He wears a tie and a crisp white shirt, and his smile reveals a small gap between his two front teeth.

They had two sons: Joe, 13; and Frankie, who is 5 or 6. But the family was falling apart.

Garcia's father, Celso Bello, said Garcia had diabetes and had been very sick for the past seven months. He had lost 30 pounds. He was unable to drive a truck and had begun cleaning offices.

He watched the boys while his wife went to work at an insurance company. The bank served him with foreclosure papers in February. He and his wife separated around the same time.

"Terrible," his father said. "He's so young."

Celso Bello is 83 years old. As afternoon got on toward dusk Saturday, he sat in his duplex in Carrollwood, wearing a ball cap and a threadbare T-shirt that said GROUPER, thinking about his son. A red rotary telephone sat on the kitchen table. He picked it up when it rang.

It was a grandchild.

"Something terrible happened to Uncle George," Bello said. "He killed his wife. … He fought with the police and the police killed him. It's terrible. I feel very bad.

"Terrible."

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan and reporter Justin George contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 661-2443 or at jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

Four killed, two deputies shot in rampage in Tampa 06/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2008 6:49pm]

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