1 dead, 4 wounded in drive-by shooting in Tampa; suspect arrested

TAMPA, Fla. -- A suspect has been arrested in a drive-by shooting that left one person dead and four others injured early Saturday at a lounge on South Howard Avenue. 

The shooting in the parking lot of the Palace Hookan Lounge, 219 S. Howard Ave., stemmed from a dispute, police said.

Arrested was Gary Omar Rivera Montanez, 22, 5243 Madison Circle.

Police said Montanez was a patron at the lounge, where he aggressively flirted with several female patrons. When the establishment closed, several patrons gathered in a parking lot on the north side of the building, where the defendant continued to aggressively flirt with Heaven Mayo, 24. She became uncomfortable and asked Schneider Simplice, a former bouncer at the lounge, for help. 

The defendant insisted he'd done nothing wrong. Simplice and on-duty bouncer, Khaled Ghoneim, asked the defendant to leave.

As Montanez left, he told the men, "Don't try me like this. I've got a gun," a witness said.

A witness also said Montanez told the men he would remember their faces and would be back.

At approximately 4:35 a.m. police said Montanez turned north in his car onto Howard Avenue from West Platt Street and opened fire through his driver's side window into the crowd gathered around the lounge and in the parking lot.

Mike Franck, 23, of Tallahassee was struck in the chest. He died at the scene.

There are no indications he was involved in the earlier altercation.

At least four other victims -- Mayo; Justin King, 24; Donald Jocelin, 25; and Tobiasz Cudnik, 32 -- were struck. One was treated at the scene. Three were transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

After Montanez left the scene, an alert  was sent out with a description of the vehicle and defendant. About 4:42 a.m., a police officer pulled over the a car at North Armenia Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. The driver matched the description and a handgun and shell casings were in plain sight in the car.

Witnesses later identified the driver as the shooter.

After being read his Miranda rights, Montanez admitted to being in an altercation at the Palace Lounge and to firing into the crowd. He claimed he did so in self defense.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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