A man on the run from Hillsborough County authorities for almost six years was apprehended in Matamoros, Mexico by officials from the Department of Homeland Security last week.
Mario Sanchez Mercado, 27, was apprehended by Mexican authorities in the city just opposite of Brownsville, Texas, 940 miles from Tampa. He is sought by Hillsborough County authorities due to allegations that he fatally shot Gregorio Santana, 23, and wounded his twin brother Felix.
Authorities say that, on October 5, 2010, members of the Latin Life gang became embroiled in an argument with members of the West Side gang outside Samya’s Life Saver at Balm and Woodside in Riverside. The argument allegedly escalated into a mêlée in front of a residence on Glenshire Drive, southeast a short distance from the store, and reputed gang member Christopher Sanchez was reported to be struck in the head with a beer bottle by an unknown assailant. Sheriff’s deputies say that Mercado opened fire, mortally wounding Gregorio Santana and critically wounding Felix Santana.
Deputies arrived at the residence shortly after 6 o’clock in the evening. Gregario was declared dead at the scene, and Felix was transported to Tampa General Hospital. Minutes later another group of deputies arrived at a fire station on Big Bend Road, where Sanchez had driven himself and Mercado in search of treatment for severe cuts to his head from the beer bottle he was struck with. Those deputies say three others were with Sanchez, but fled as soon as they sighted the deputies. Mercado was not located that night, and warrants were issued for his arrest on charges of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.
Authorities indicate that they are unsure as to whether the argument was a gang-related one or not, but they maintain that the alleged shooter Mercado and his alleged victims the Santana brothers were members of rival gangs.
Mercado successfully evaded capture for five years and nine months, apparently living in Mexico for most of that time. United States Marshals featured him as a “most wanted” fugitive at one point, but to no avail. He was living in the border town under the alias Mario Alberto Garcia, having obtained a forged birth certificate identifying him as such. As he is not a citizen of Mexico, authorities remanded him into the custody of the Mexican immigration department for deportation to the United States.
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