Two men charged with murder after shooting at DeSoto Road convenience store

Investigation indicates parties’ association with a gang and alleged drug dealing

This is a graphic created by the Sheriff’s Office to show the suspects in the July 25 incident. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has charged two men — one of whom is a convicted felon — in connection with a fatal shooting that took place on the afternoon of July 25 in Sarasota, the department has reported.

Roberto Ruiz Jr., 37, of 2507 19th St. in Sarasota is in the Sarasota County Jail under $600,000 bond, awaiting arraignment on Sept. 10, the Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections Division reports. Officially, he is charged with one count of Homicide: Murder Dangerous Depraved without Premeditation.

Rafael Gonzalez, 20, of Dover, is being held in the Hillsborough County Jail without bond, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reports. He has been charged with murder in the second degree in the Sarasota case, the jail record shows; he is awaiting extradition to Sarasota County. That record also lists him as unemployed.

On July 30, a third person allegedly involved in the case, Nichole Vasquez of Wauchula, was in custody at the Manatee County Jail on unrelated charges, including two counts of Aggravated Child Abuse, Fleeing to Elude, Resisting an Officer without Violence, Failure to Remain at a Crash Involving Great Bodily Harm, and Driving While License Suspended, a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office release pointed out.

Around 4 p.m. on July 25, a Sheriff’s Office news release said, officers responded to reports of gunshots in front of the Day Night Convenience Store, which is located at 3250 Desoto Road. “According to witnesses, several people were arguing in the parking lot when gunshots were fired,” the release added.

When deputies arrived, they located the deceased victim on the ground “with multiple gunshot wounds to his arm, chest, and head,” the release continued.

The report that the officers filed said they saw “five apparent gunshot wounds” on the body of the victim.

“Deputies immediately initiated a search of the area for the involved vehicles and suspects,” the release noted, but they were unsuccessful in finding them.

This is the convenience store located at 3250 Desoto Road. Image from Google Maps

After detectives obtained security footage from the convenience store, the release continued, they saw the victim “in a verbal confrontation with 31-year-old Nichole Vasquez just minutes prior to the shooting,” the release said. “The victim, who is not being identified under protections afforded by Marsy’s Law, is seen holding a pocketknife behind his back while arguing with Vasquez,” the release added.

A male suspect, later identified as Ruiz, “is seen approaching Vasquez in an effort to guard her against the victim,” the release noted.

He “stepped between [the victim] and Vasquez and attempted to push Vasquez back,” the formal Sheriff’s Office report said. “Vasquez then motioned with her right hand and arm as if to call someone to her location,” the report added. “Neither Ruiz nor Vasquez ever appeared in fear [of the victim],” the report pointed out, noting, “Neither attempted to retreat, create distance, or make any other motion which would indicate they believed [the victim] was a threat to their personal safety.”

“Moments later,” the news release continued, “20-year-old Rafael Gonzalez is seen carrying a [small black semiautomatic] handgun and engaging in the argument.” The formal report noted that the gun was “clearly visible” in his right hand.

“As the confrontation escalates, Gonzalez is seen firing the handgun,” striking the victim several times, the release added.

The knife fell from the victim’s hand after he was shot, the report said. The victim “attempted to run from the shooter toward the west side of the convenience store,” the report added.

“Gonzalez follows the victim and fires the handgun again, striking the victim in his chest and head,” the release noted.

One shot penetrated the victim’s head between the eyes, the report noted.

Video surveillance also captured a silver Grand Marquis, driven by Ruiz, fleeing from the scene while Vasquez followed in a black Mercedes, the release said.

Gang association and drug dealing alleged

This aerial map shows the location of the shooting. Image from Google Maps

Through their investigation, the release explained, detectives determined that both Ruiz and Gonzalez are known associates of Vasquez, “and the three were likely at the convenience store to facilitate a narcotics transaction.”

The report explained that after detectives showed the video surveillance to Sarasota Police Department detectives and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents, “[T]hey confirmed Ruiz is a known enforcer for Vasquez who conducts methamphetamine transactions, with affiliation to the Surenos gang.”

On July 27, deputies worked in partnership with the Sarasota Police Department to locate Ruiz in the city of Sarasota, the release said. “Just after noon, in an attempt to avoid arrest, Ruiz crashed his vehicle near the intersection of Fruitville Road and East Avenue,” the report added. Ruiz fled on foot; however, “deputies quickly took him into custody,” the release pointed out.

On July 29, detectives issued a warrant for Gonzalez, who lives at 14641 Montayne St. in Dover, the release continued. Just after 9:30 a.m. on July 30, Gonzalez was located in Dover and taken into custody by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the release said.

“At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez was wearing the same shirt he wore during the shooting,” it noted.

Ruiz has prior felony convictions for Armed Burglary, Grand Theft of a Firearm, and Willful Fleeing to Elude, the news release added.

“The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending,” the release said.

The Sheriff’s Office’s initial alert about the July 25 incident noted, “At this time this is an isolated incident and there is no continued threat to the public.”

That alert also asked that anyone with information about the incident call the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS (8477), or going online at www.sarasotasheriff.org.

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