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Regular patron arrested in early morning killing in Hillsborough bar

TAMPA — A man was arrested on a murder charge Sunday following an early-morning argument and shooting inside a Hillsborough County bar.

Santos Rene Herrera-Cruz, 47, and Jose Rafael Murillo, 36, got into a fight at about 2:10 a.m. in La Raza Bar & Discotec, 4025 W Waters Ave., said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

Herrera-Cruz pulled a handgun and shot Murillo at least once in the chest, authorities said. Murillo was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he soon died.

Herrera-Cruz fled following the shooting but was later arrested at his Tampa home, authorities said. He was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on a charge of second-degree murder with a firearm and held without bail.

"Really no one saw it coming," said Marlly Sanchez, 20, daughter of the owners of La Raza Bar. "We've been open two years and never had anything like this happen. It's known as a calm place."

Herrera-Cruz is a regular patron of the bar, but Murillo was not, Sanchez said.

No one at the bar was aware of what led to the fight, Sanchez said. Security guards routinely check patrons with metal detectors prior to entry. The owners are not sure how Herrera-Cruz was able to bring in a weapon.

The gun that Herrera-Cruz used was small, Sanchez said. She speculated that a woman who was with him at the bar may have sneaked it inside.

An investigation of the shooting remained ongoing Sunday.

Herrera-Cruz has a record of arrests for driving under the influence and driving while license suspended, state records say. In 2004 and again in 2007, he was arrested in Polk County on charges related to attending an animal fight.

Times news researcher Carolyn Edds and staff writer Stephanie Wang contributed to this report. Dan Sullivan can be reached at or (813) 226-3321.

Regular patron arrested in early morning killing in Hillsborough bar 06/26/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 26, 2011 9:56pm]
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