TAMPA — Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Crespo didn't know the man yelling at him and his friends Wednesday evening as the group chatted outside a Town 'N Country home.
Israel Sanchez, 49, seemed drunk and angry, several friends remember. He wanted to start a fight, they say.
The group of about eight didn't know Sanchez had a gun tucked into his waistband.
Without warning, he pulled it out and shot Crespo in the chest, said Vanessa Gonzalez, 30, and Alex Tierney, 17. Then he threatened the others.
Deputies detained Sanchez for questioning Wednesday but as of Thursday night, they had not charged him with a crime.
Gonzalez, who was engaged to Crespo, and Tierney, a friend, say they believe Sanchez may be concocting a story of self-defense.
That would be untrue, they said. No one had threatened the man, they say.
"The look in (Sanchez's) eyes when he shot him was like he didn't even care," Tierney said. "He had the evilest look in his eyes."
Sanchez dated Tierney's mother, the young man said Thursday.
He would often carry a gun and threaten friends at Tierney's house. Usually, the gun would be visible on the often-shirtless Sanchez. On Wednesday, he wore a shirt. No one knew he was armed, Tierney said, until he pulled the gun.
Records show Sanchez was arrested twice in the '90s on charges including aggravated battery, battery and aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.
Deputies initially said Wednesday's shooting stemmed from an ongoing fight, but if it did, it didn't involve Crespo, friends say. Crespo had never met Sanchez before, both Gonzalez and Tierney said.
Gonzalez called 911 after the shooting and held her fiancee as he died.
They had dated about three years and were planning their future together. She has children but can't have any more.
She says Crespo was fine with that and had become a father figure to her 6-year-old son.
The pair would go jogging together, and sometimes Crespo would teach the little boy how to box.
"He was quiet, calm, cool, just mellow all the time," Tierney said. "He was the best one out of all of us."
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.