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Survivor of deadly Thanksgiving shooting improving

RUSKIN — He has opened his eyes and moved his body but hasn't said a word.

So for now, Richard Cantu's family isn't sure what he knows about Thursday morning — when an unknown man dressed in a T-shirt labeled "Sheriff" opened fire on Cantu and a group of his cousins while they played cards on a friend's porch.

Cantu was shot in the head and has been in St. Joseph's Hospital's intensive care unit ever since.

Two of his cousins, brothers Sergio Guitran, 22, and Juan Guitran, 28, died. In addition to Cantu, three other men, Daniel Beltran, 24, Ramon Galan, 29, and Gonzalo Guevara, 28, survived gunshot wounds.

The shooter remains on the loose.

"It's not in Richard's best interest to tell him the situation," Cantu's wife, Alesia Smith, said at her home Saturday as she prepared to go back to the hospital. "The good thing is, he's responsive. We know he's going to be all right."

Though he was initially listed in extremely critical condition, Smith said doctors say Cantu is doing well. They will test for lasting damage once Cantu's swelling goes down, Smith said.

Beltran and Galan were shot in their upper bodies, and Guevara was shot in the wrist. All three were in stable condition.

As the survivors improve, questions about the deadly Thanksgiving shooting remain unanswered.

It's still unclear what led the shooter to the little house on Ocean Mist Court that morning. Nobody there knew the man, Cantu's family said, nor did they recognize the name of another man the stranger asked about before he ordered them to the ground and opened fire.

"That guy came there to shoot somebody," said John Cardoza, cousin to Cantu and the Guitran brothers. "My cousins were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon wasn't saying much Saturday about the investigation, but said that detectives are working around the clock.

"No one's backed off trying to catch this guy," McKinnon said. "We'll stay on top of it until every single lead is exhausted."

On Saturday, friends and relatives of the men gathered at the scene of the crime, where there's now a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, white balloons and full bottles of beer.

Neighbor Juan Hernandez, who said he has known the men at least 15 years, said people have been steadily adding to the collection since the scene was cleared.

"This is a real close community," Hernandez said. "I just don't understand."

There will be two fundraisers today: a carwash at the Discount Auto at 802 N U.S. 41, and a bake sale at Alvarez Tortilla Factory, 17 Seventh Ave. NE, the family said.

Cardoza said the monetary support is appreciated, but he also hopes anyone with information about the shooter comes forward. Deputies said the suspect is a white man in his 30s or 40s with short, dark brown or black, bushy hair.

"I don't want this guy running around, messing up other people's families," Cardoza said.

Anyone who knows anything is urged to call detectives at (813) 247-8200 or Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-8477.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442

>>Fast facts

Services set

A viewing for Sergio and Juan Guitran will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the National Cremation and Burial Society in Ruskin, and a funeral will be held Wednesday.

Survivor of deadly Thanksgiving shooting improving 11/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 27, 2010 10:31pm]
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