Four workers at a Tampa hotel were gunned down Thursday by a fellow employee, who then fled the scene and killed a fifth person who apparently refused to give in to the suspect’s demands that she give up her car, police said. Three others were wounded in the midafternoon rampage.
The suspect, identified as a 36-year-old employee of the Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel, was apprehended without incident about a mile from the hotel, police said.
Tampa Police Chief Bennie Holder said the suspect is Silvio Layva, a Cuban immigrant.
Holder said Layva, who previously lived in Alabama, had been working in the hotel’s housekeeping department since late November. Holder said Layva had been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and was refusing to talk to police.
The police chief said that two weapons were found when the suspect was taken into custody. “Right now, we don’t know the motivation,” he added.
“He didn’t say nothing--just boom, boom, boom,” said Radisson employee Lawrence Wilson, indicating how the shooter fired. “We had no beef with the guy. He just . . . snapped.”
Wilson said the shooter had worked at the hotel about three months and had never caused any problems.
“It was terrifying to me,” said Ovideo Hernandez, 26, a sandwich maker at La Teresita, a restaurant where the gunman shot his fifth victim after she apparently refused to give up her car.
Hernandez said a woman in her 50s had just left the restaurant with a Cuban sandwich, a medianoche, when she was accosted in the parking lot.
“A thing like this would never happen in Cuba,” said Hernandez, who arrived here three years ago as a refugee from the communist island. “She was laying on the ground, covered in blood.”
The shooting broke out in the hotel, which was filled with college football fans in Tampa for the New Year’s Day Outback Bowl between Purdue University and the University of Georgia. Three of the victims were found in the lobby, a fourth by the hotel pool.
“I heard two pops and saw people running out of the hotel,” said Carson Woods, a fan from Dayton, Ohio. “I knew I had to get out of there.”
As the gunman fled the hotel, part-time bellman Rafael Berrios, 20, was coming in on his day off to pick up a paycheck. Berrios said the suspect approached his car and thrust a pistol at him through the window.
“I saw him switching clips,” said Berrios. “I jumped out of my car and ran.”
With the hotel roped off as a crime scene, many guests who were out at the time of the shooting were being denied permission to return to their rooms. “It puts a damper on the festivities,” said Purdue fan Mark Sanders.
“We were all jacked up for the game. But I understand there’s a bigger tragedy than not being able to get into our room. Someone is not going home tonight.”
Tampa Mayor Dick Greco called the shootings “extremely tragic. “Unfortunately, this can happen anywhere in the world.”
Thursday’s incident was the worst shooting in Tampa since May 1998, when Hank Earl Carr, who had been arrested as a suspect in the death of his 4-year-old son, broke free from police. Carr shot to death three police officers and kept others at bay at a gas station for four hours, before killing himself.
Times wire services contributed to this story.