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Student gunned down at nightclub

Sixteen-year-old Kevin Hayes was killed when a man opened fire into a crowd outside the Garage.

By KATHRYN WEXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


TAMPA -- Kevin Alexander Hayes was the kind of kid who comes to the attention of school officials. Not because he ever courted trouble.

But because his future was so bright.

"Let me tell you what classes he had coming up next year," said Chamberlain High School principal Henry Washington. "Chemical honors I, algebra II honors, English III honors, American history honors and French III."

He was a starting cornerback on the Chamberlain football team.

Hayes, 16, was shot in the head just after 3 a.m. Thursday and died where he fell, on a paved lot outside the Garage night club on Jefferson Street in downtown Tampa. In the Chamberlain High School junior's pocket was a fake I.D. police said he had probably used to get into the club.

A gunman, apparently seeking retribution for some stolen mag wheels, fired into a crowd of patrons milling around just after the downtown club closed, police said.

Also shot was 24-year-old Derrick Philips, his lung and kidney punctured, said his mother, Caroline Price. Philips was in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital but was expected to recover.

The bullets were intended for a different person altogether, police said. Hayes and Philips didn't know each other and had nothing to do with the dispute that started in the club and reignited in the parking lot, officers said.

"It's a senseless shooting," said Capt. Sam Diaz. "This guy hit two innocent victims."

Three uniformed officers hired by the club for crowd control were close by when bullets started flying. Patrons shouted to officers that the shooter was driving the dark blue compact car lurching out of the parking lot. Officers were able to wrestle him from behind the wheel and onto the ground as he careened into one car and then another.

Jose Fabian Santiago, 19, was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. Just three months ago, Santiago was arrested in the early-morning hours one block north of the Garage on charges of aggravated assault and discharging a firearm. That case is as yet unresolved. This time, Santiago is being held in jail without bail.

Hayes' mother, Valarie Hayes, stood outside the nightclub Thursday morning with her husband and only other child, a daughter. Her son's blood had been freshly washed away with a hose.

"I'm hurt," said Mrs. Hayes, the pavement still wet as she spoke. "I'm hurting deeply."

The last time she saw her son was Wednesday evening when he headed out with a couple of friends. He liked to go out at night, Mrs. Hayes said, and she had driven him to and from other clubs, but not the Garage.

The club, at Whiting Street, was in full throttle Wednesday night. Hundreds of patrons paid an entrance fee and danced to hip-hop music. There was a male and female review, said Carlos Escalante, Philips' friend.

When the shots rang out, "some people jumped on the ground, some people ran," he said. Escalante saw Hayes in green shorts and multicolored top crumple to the ground. Then he turned around and saw his friend had collapsed, too.

"I wasn't sure what I was looking at," he said.

With the heavy crowds, Santiago was driving slowly enough that one officer was able to lunge for the wheel while another grabbed the suspect. Officers' guns were drawn and one discharged accidentally. No one was hit.

Police said they sometimes have difficulty late at night dispersing crowds after the club closes as 3 a.m. But the Garage, with its red brick exterior and black awnings, wasn't the kind of place that frequently required extra officers because of trouble.

Just a few hours after her son was killed, Mrs. Hayes said she would use the tragedy to promote gun control.

"I'm going to fight for the guns to be taken off the street," said Mrs. Hayes, a teacher's assistant.

"He was a super kid," said Washington, his principal.

Hayes worked part-time at Busch Gardens. Neighbors said they often saw Hayes outside his parents house on E Cayuga Street washing down his father's Lincoln Town Car that he sometimes got to drive.

"He was supposed to go to work today," said Hayes' uncle, Reginald Hayes, standing just beyond the yellow police tape before rush hour Thursday morning.

-- Kathryn Wexler can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or wexler@sptimes.com.

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