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Victim's plea followed by more shots in Tampa rampage

Jorge Orlando Bello Garcia shot his estranged wife, Gina Marie Lamantia-Bello, and two others before being killed by a deputy. This is an undated family photo.

Jorge Orlando Bello Garcia shot his estranged wife, Gina Marie Lamantia-Bello, and two others before being killed by a deputy. This is an undated family photo.

TAMPA — Through gaps in a wooden fence, John Mullins tried to see the source of gunshots he heard coming from his neighbor's screened-in porch.

He heard a male voice: Jorge, you've shot me! I'm going to die! Somebody call the cops!

Mullins saw a figure lean over a person seated in a chair and mumble something into the person's ear.

Then the figure stood and fired another bullet into the seated person.

Moments later, Mullins' wife watched Jorge Orlando Bello Garcia leave the house with something wrapped in a towel, jump into his red pickup truck and drive away.

It was perhaps the most vivid glimpse into the start of a deadly North Tampa rampage on Saturday that shocked neighbors and shook up a group of pursuing Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies.

Bello shot and killed his wife, 44-year-old Gina Marie Lamantia-Bello, and two of her friends, Regina Coffaro and Chris Artigas, both of Tampa.

Bello was soon cornered by deputies a half-mile away and became involved in a shootout with them, injuring two deputies before a third wrestled him to the ground and shot him in the head, killing him.

Deputy Art Lence, 53, who was shot in the abdomen, was listed as stable at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa late Sunday. Deputy Ray Wilson, 55, a 26-year veteran, was treated at the hospital and released Saturday.

With all four men and women in the original confrontation now dead, many questions remained Sunday.

Why were they all at 11220 Elmfield Drive at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and what brought about such a tragic and horrific ending? Grieving friends and family members were unwilling to speculate, and sheriff's detectives released no details Sunday.

"Why (Bello) went out there, we may never know,'' said sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway.

Bello, 54, was going through an extremely difficult time, according to his father, 83-year-old Celso Bello. His son was suffering from diabetes, the father said, and could no longer work as a truck driver. In February, the son was served foreclosure papers on his house, and he separated from his wife around the same time.

Mullins, the neighbor, said Jorge Bello often spoke ill of his wife, calling her names and complaining about their sex life. But he didn't seem violent, Mullins said.

Callaway said that Bello's motive for going after his wife while she was in the company of Coffaro and Artigas was "up for speculation … that may all come out in the coming days," he said.

The Bellos were married in 1994 — Sunday would have been their 14th anniversary — and had two sons, 13-year-old Joe and 6-year-old Frankie. Gina Bello worked for an insurance agency and her husband watched the boys after he stopped working as a trucker, Celso Bello said.

Coffaro, 44, was a family friend and a mother of three daughters. She was studying to be a massage therapist, according to Coffaro's aunt, Ida Nogues.

Coffaro's oldest daughter, 25-year-old Taryn Coffaro, attended Plant High School and was a semifinalist for the 2001 St. Petersburg Times scholarship, which is awarded to teens who have overcome significant obstacles in their lives to excel in school.

• • •

The tragedy hit Hillsborough County Fire Rescue extra hard. Not only was Artigas a beloved fire captain, but Coffaro was the sister of a driver engineer, said George Sucarichi, president of the county firefighters union.

Many firefighters gathered at Artigas' home with his wife and three children on Saturday and Sunday, remembering a 23-year fire veteran who loved his job and was a talented musician. Artigas, 45, played acoustic blues and sang at popular Tampa restaurants such as Iavarone's Steakhouse and Rick's On the River.

"A lot of folks in the department sort of followed him," said Sucarichi. "He was a West Tampa kid, born and raised here, so a lot of locals knew he was a musician."

Sucarichi didn't know the connection between Artigas and the Bellos, and wouldn't comment on Artigas' personal or family life. "I think most people will stay away from that, to be honest with you," Sucarichi said.

Henry Heitler, a 29-year Fire Department veteran who retired two years ago, watched Artigas grow from a 21-year-old rookie to a driver to a captain over the years. "He was loved and respected by all," Heitler said. "He was a good leader, a good captain."

Heitler heard about the odd eyewitness report of a male voice — most likely Artigas — telling his killer "you've shot me," and "I'm going to die."

"Seems like something he'd say," Heitler said. "He was very straightforward like that."

Staff writer Thomas Lake contributed to this report.

Victim's plea followed by more shots in Tampa rampage 06/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2008 12:34pm]
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