An employee at a Tampa hotel opened fire this afternoon, killing four co-workers, then fatally shot a female motorist as he attempted to steal her car for a getaway, Tampa police said. Three other people were wounded, two critically.
The gunman then successfully carjacked another vehicle without hurting that driver and drove a short distance before he was apprehended, police spokesman Steve Cole said. Silvio Layva, a 36-year-old Cuban immigrant who had worked in the hotel's housekeeping department for a month, was charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
"At this time, we don't have a motive for the shootings. He hasn't told us anything," Police Chief Bennie Holder said, adding that Layva seemed unfazed by the killings. "He was not upset," Reuters quoted Holder as saying. "He was very calm."
Investigators were trying to sort out what happened at the crowded Radisson Bay Harbor Inn on Courtney Campbell Causeway near Tampa Bay after Layva allegedly began shooting about 3:10 p.m. today.
"He didn't say nothing -- just `boom, boom, boom,' " Radisson employee Lawrence Wilson told the Associated Press. "We had no beef with the guy. He just . . . snapped."
Three of the co-workers were shot in the lobby, which was overflowing with guests in town to attend the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day between the Purdue University and University of Georgia football teams. The fourth victim was discovered near the swimming pool. The gunman then fled by car to the parking lot of La Terasita, a restaurant miles away, where the fifth person was shot and killed as Layva allegedly attempted to carjack her automobile.
AP said police identified the dead as Eric Pedroso, 29; Barbara Carter, 55; Jose Aguilar, 40; George Jones, 43; and Dolores Perdomo, 56.
Jorge Cano, 40, and Geraldine Dobson, 53, were critically injured, and Charlie Lee White, 43, was treated at a hospital and released, authorities said.
As the gunman fled the hotel grounds, he met Rafael Barrios, 20, a hotel bellman who was arriving to pick up his paycheck. Barrios said the man pointed a pistol at him through the car window. "I saw him switching the clips," Barrios told reporters. "I jumped out of my car and ran."
Agatha Melissaris, manager of the Thunder Bay Cafe across the street from the hotel, said the restaurant was filled with stunned hotel guests who could not stop talking about the shooting. Members of a teenage girls' soccer team, who were staying at the hotel for a tournament and apparently witnessed the shooting, were so upset that they fled to a hospital.
"It has been wild -- helicopters, police cars all over the place, the rumors," Melissaris said. "I kept hearing the gunman's mother was an employee at the hotel, too, and that he killed her, too." That could not be verified.
The incident in this west Florida resort city of 280,000 came as a particularly bloody year for high-profile workplace, church and school shootings drew to a close. Although violent crime overall is down nationally, 1999 was marked by multiple shootings from Alabama to Washington state that shattered illusions that any place was safe.
The year's deadliest workplace shooting occurred in Atlanta on July 29, when investor Mark O. Barton fatally shot nine people at two day trading firms. Barton, 44, had killed his wife and two children at the suburban apartment they shared. He turned the gun on himself as police closed in.
Today's incident was the worst shooting in Tampa since May 1998, when Hank Earl Carr, in custody as a suspect in the death of his 4-year-old son, broke free from police, killed three officers and held off others for four hours before killing himself.
The tragedy only increased jitters for residents already nervous about terrorist threats and other dangers with the arrival of 2000.
"I'm sorry it happened -- you always think of the families," said Perry Panchal, a store clerk who works near the hotel. "I sure hope it's not a bad omen. I'm trying to be optimistic and get through the next few days."
Staff researcher Lynn Davis in Washington contributed to this report.