Homicide Investigation Yields Multiple Charges

NEWS RELEASE 21-040 - JULY 30, 2021
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The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office charged two men including a convicted felon in connection with a fatal shooting that took place Sunday afternoon in Sarasota.

Deputies were alerted around 4:00 p.m. to reports of gunshots in front of the Day Night Convenience Store located at 3250 Desoto Road. According to witnesses, several people were arguing in the parking lot when gunshots were fired. When deputies arrived, they located the victim deceased on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds to his arm, chest, and head. Deputies immediately initiated a search of the area for the involved vehicles and suspects but were unsuccessful.

Detectives obtained security footage from the convenience store which showed the victim in a verbal confrontation with 31-year-old Nichole Vasquez just minutes prior to the shooting. The victim, who is not being identified under protections afforded by Marsy’s Law, is seen holding a pocketknife knife behind his back while arguing with Vasquez. A male suspect, later identified as 37-year-old Roberto Ruiz, Jr., is seen approaching Vasquez in an effort to guard her against the victim. Moments later, 20-year-old Rafael Gonzalez is seen carrying a handgun and engaging in the argument. As the confrontation escalates, Gonzalez is seen firing the handgun and striking the victim several causing the victim to retreat to the side of the building. Gonzalez follows the victim and fires the handgun again, striking the victim in his chest and head. Video surveillance captures a silver Grand Marquis, driven by Ruiz, fleeing from the scene while Vasquez follows in a black Mercedes. Through investigation, detectives determined both Ruiz and Gonzalez are known associates of Vasquez, and the three were likely at the convenience store to facilitate a narcotics transaction.

On Tuesday, deputies worked in partnership with the Sarasota Police Department to locate Ruiz in the city of Sarasota. Just after noon, in an attempt to avoid arrest, Ruiz crashed his vehicle near the intersection of Fruitville Road and East Avenue. Ruiz fled on foot however, deputies quickly took him into custody.

On Thursday, detectives issued a warrant for Gonzalez, who lives at 14641 Montayne Street in Dover, Florida. Just after 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, Gonzalez was located in Dover and taken into custody by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez was wearing the same shirt he wore during the shooting.

Gonzalez is charged with 2nd Degree Murder and will remain in the custody of Hillsborough County officials until he is extradited to Sarasota County.

Ruiz, of 2507 19th Street in Sarasota, is charged with Principal to Second Degree Murder and remains in Sarasota County custody today without bond. He has prior felony convictions for Armed Burglary, Grand Theft of a Firearm, and Willful Fleeing to Elude.

Vasquez, of Wauchula, is in custody today 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. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending.

The sheriff’s office would like to thank the Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Hillsborough, Pasco, and Manatee County Sheriff’s Offices, and Sarasota Police Department, for their assistance in this investigation.