By Tamas Mondovics
A man wanted for a fatal gang related shooting in Riverview nearly six years ago was arrested last month in Mexico.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Mario Mercado, 27, whose last known local address was in Riverview, an associate of the gang called West Side, skipped town after he shot and killed Gregorio Santana and wounded his twin brother, Felix Santana.
The Santanas, who were 23 at the time of the shooting, were both members of the Latin Life gang and resided in Riverview.
Authorities said that on October 5, 2010, an altercation broke out between Mercado, who was accompanied by another West Side gang member, Christopher Sanchez, 22, and the Santanas, at the Life Saver store located on Balm Riverview Road and Rhodine Road. The argument continued later in front of a home at 12304 Glenshire Dr. in Riverview. Witnesses and investigators said that during the argument, Sanches was hit with a bottle, at which point Mercado pulled a semi auto pistol and opened fire killing Gregorio before fleeing the scene. Felix was also hit and was later transported to Tampa General Hospital in critical condition.
Aside from Mercado, deputies were able to find all involved in the incident, prompting a warrant for a second-degree murder and attempted murder for Mercado the following day.
Fast forward to July 28, 2016 Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) confirmed that a U.S. citizen was residing in Mexico using two false Mexican birth certificates. HSI in Tampa coordinated with Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to provide necessary documentation to the Government of Mexico to confirm Mercado’s identity.
Ten days later, HSI in Tampa was notified that Mercado was in custody in Mexico and would be turning himself over to United States Customs and Border Protection to be processed into custody in the United States.
“As a result of the vigilance of HSI special agents and our partners at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, a suspected murderer will now face justice,” said Susan L. McCormick special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “Our community is a safer place through the collaborative efforts of HSI, HCSO, Customs and Border Protection and our international partners.” For more information, www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.