BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) — A Bradenton man who was already a suspect in a 2014 cold case murder has been arrested again for a murder that happened in 2006, deputies say.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said Pedro “Pedico” Garcia, 40, was charged with the murder of then-21-year-old Guadalupe Vela.
On June 25, 2006, Vela got into an argument with Garcia at the Santa Fe Bar and Grill on 301 Boulevard East.
According to deputies, Garcia was a member of the East Side Crip gang, which was a rival to Vela’s gang.
The argument between the two men continued until they both left in different directions.
However, the two men would encounter each other again when Vela went to a family member’s house on 33rd Avenue East. There, the argument continued until it escalated into a shooting, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies said Garcia shot Vela twice in the back while the victim was running away, killing him in the backyard of the home.
Investigators found spent 9mm bullet casings in the road, but at the time, the potential witness to the shooting did not want to speak with deputies.
However, in October 2006, deputies stopped Garcia for a traffic violation on 9th Avenue West in Bradenton, which led them to find a 9mm pistol in his car.
The sheriff’s office arrested the gang member on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement linked the gun to the crime scene with ballistics testing, however, it was determined that the rounds that killed Vela were from another gun.
Over the years, detectives collected statements from various witnesses who alleged that Garcia spoke about killing Vela.
However, it would not be until July 2021 that a prisoner would come forward and say he was a witness to a shooting.
“Last summer, detectives learned that Garcia while in the Manatee County Jail in 2015 confided to another inmate that he killed Vela – providing very specific details of that night and the crime scene,” the sheriff’s office said. “In July of 2021, detectives interviewed a prisoner in the Wakulla Correctional Institution who also confirmed having witnessed Garcia shoot Vela.”
On Jan. 9, 2023, detectives got an arrest warrant for Garcia, who was already out on bond after he was arrested in June 2022 for the 2014 cold case murder of Samuel Conde. According to the sheriff’s office, Conde’s murder was not related to Vela’s death.
Detectives said they believe Garcia may be responsible for other unsolved violent crimes that happened from the early to mid-2000s.
“Anyone with information on Pedro Pedico’ Garcia is urged to contact the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at (941) 747-3011, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $3,000, call Manatee Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS or visit www.ManateeCrimeStoppers.com,” the sheriff’s office said.