Sunday, May 20, 2018
Public safety

Kids witness murder-suicide outside Carrollwood restaurant, deputies say

TAMPA — The 7-year-old boy had just returned from a trip to South Florida with his father.

Now, because his parents were separated, it was time for him to go to his mother.

The exchange was set. One o'clock Friday afternoon in the parking lot of the Village Inn restaurant in Carrollwood.

Guillermo Garcia, 38, arrived in his pickup with the boy.

Okariny Diaz, 33, drove up in a van with two other adults and three kids.

The boy hopped out of the truck and into the van.

But instead of going home with his mother, the boy witnessed pure horror.

After a brief argument by the van, Garcia shot Diaz, then turned the gun on himself, investigators said.

The boy, though uninjured, saw everything.

In an instant, he became an orphan.

More than 20 Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies descended on the Village Inn at 8602 N Dale Mabry Highway. They roped it off with crime-scene tape and covered the bodies with white sheets.

Detectives questioned the boy and other witnesses.

Nearby, friends and relatives gathered, some crying. Spectators joined near the busy intersection.

If Diaz had been afraid of Garcia, records didn't show it. Deputies say it doesn't appear she had filed for a court injunction seeking protection from him.

But a leasing agent at a Town 'N Country apartment complex said Diaz — a beautiful woman with long, black hair — moved out last week because Garcia had found out where she lived.

She was afraid, the agent said.

On Friday, deputies said, the pair started arguing while Diaz was sitting in the driver's side of her van and Garcia was standing outside of it.

He pulled out a handgun and shot Diaz "multiple times," killing her in front of everyone, including a 10-year-old girl and two 14-year-old girls who aren't related to her, deputies say.

Garcia then shot himself once in the head.

Jessica Hernandez, who lives in an apartment building adjacent to the restaurant, said she heard four gunshots and ran outside on her balcony to see what happened.

Hernandez, 22, said she saw Garcia kill himself.

"He did it in front of the kids," she said. "That's sad."

Garcia and Diaz were never married. Court records filed in South Florida show that a paternity test done in 2005 confirmed that Garcia was the father of the boy, who was born in 2004.

In 2006, a judge ordered Garcia to pay about $1,500 in retroactive child support. At that time, the documents say, Garcia and Diaz had "reconciled" and were living together.

At some point, that arrangement ended.

Deputies say Garcia is from Pembroke Pines in Broward County, though he rents a Town 'N Country home with faux yellow bricks and pavers riddled with weeds.

For hours Friday afternoon, two sheets covered the bodies as they remained in the parking lot as deputies investigated. Passers-by commented how awful it was that children had witnessed the shooting.

"That's going to be a memory the children will have for the rest of their lives," said sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski.

Lusczynski said it's common for estranged couples to meet in public places to exchange a child. Such encounters are often very emotional, and deputies encourage people to meet in neutral areas — even police or sheriff's substations.

Deputies said Friday evening that they plan to place the boy with relatives.

Records show that Garcia had been arrested only once in Florida — in 2000 on charges of inciting to riot and obstructing a highway. The case was dropped a month later.

Times news research John Martin and staff writers Robbyn Mitchell and Patty Ryan contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813)226-3433.

Comments
Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

SANTA FE, Texas — Hardworking. Funny. Loving. Grieving family and friends recalled the endearing qualities of some of the victims of Friday’s mass shooting at a Texas high school, as authorities on Saturday released the names of the 10 killed. Eight ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Burglary suspect jumps into Hillsborough canal to escape deputies, officials say

Burglary suspect jumps into Hillsborough canal to escape deputies, officials say

TAMPA — After a botched burglary, a fleeing suspect jumped into a canal to escape deputies Saturday afternoon, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The person has not yet been identified. The suspect tried to break into a business on...
Published: 05/19/18
Cuba: 110 died in plane crash, 3 survivors ‘critical’

Cuba: 110 died in plane crash, 3 survivors ‘critical’

HAVANA — The only three survivors of Cuba’s worst aviation disaster in three decades were clinging to life Saturday, a day after their passenger jet crashed in a fireball in Havana’s rural outskirts with 113 people on board. In the first official dea...
Published: 05/19/18
He lured young men looking for weed. Their bodies turned up in a pig roaster.

He lured young men looking for weed. Their bodies turned up in a pig roaster.

Cosmo DiNardo declared "I am a savage no explanation needed" on social media seven months before police say he lured four young men to his family’s farm, shot them to death, ran one of them over with a backhoe and dumped three of their bodies in a pi...
Published: 05/19/18
Off-duty Largo firefighter arrested on DUI charge

Off-duty Largo firefighter arrested on DUI charge

DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies arrested an off-duty Largo firefighter found asleep at the wheel shortly after 4 a.m. Saturday.Patrol deputies saw a 2013 Dodge Dart, facing west and stopped in the intersection of Main Street and Bass Bou...
Published: 05/19/18
After Texas school shooting, Tampa Bay officials will step up security

After Texas school shooting, Tampa Bay officials will step up security

Hours after Friday’s deadly school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, bay area law enforcement officials pledged to beef up school security for the last remaining days of the school year.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister held a news conference late Frid...
Published: 05/18/18
Largo police seek person of interest linked to missing man

Largo police seek person of interest linked to missing man

LARGO — Police are searching for a person of interest in the January disappearance of a 24-year-old man.The missing man is Timothy Patrick Cullen, 24, who Largo police said was last seen Jan. 22 at his home in the 500 block of Seventh Ave NE. His veh...
Published: 05/18/18
Pasco man accused of abusing 3-month-old infant

Pasco man accused of abusing 3-month-old infant

BAYONET POINT — A 26-year-old man was arrested Thursday on a charge of aggravated child abuse and accused of fracturing an infant’s skull, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Brandon Scott Madrishin told deputies that a 3-month-old infant ...
Published: 05/18/18
20 years later, Hank Earl Carr’s victims are still loved and remembered

20 years later, Hank Earl Carr’s victims are still loved and remembered

When her school bus pulled up to her house that day, Ashley Bell spotted her mom’s car in the driveway and wondered why it was there. A 14-year-old latchkey kid, Bell usually got home before her mother Carolyn arrived from her job as a nurse at St. J...
Published: 05/18/18
Teen held in Texas attack is said to have used father’s guns

Teen held in Texas attack is said to have used father’s guns

SANTA FE, Texas — The Texas student charged in the school shooting at Santa Fe High School posted an image on Facebook of himself wearing a "Born to Kill" shirt and used his father’s shotgun and pistol in the attack that left 10 dead and 10 wounded, ...
Published: 05/18/18