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Officials: Why was suspect on street?

A man accused of killing a teen in Tampa had violated his probation and should have been in jail, officials say.

By KATHRYN WEXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


TAMPA -- Jose Fabian Santiago was not supposed to be on the street the night he was accused of firing into a crowd outside a downtown nightclub, killing a 16-year-old Chamberlain High School student.

Santiago, 19, was on probation after pleading guilty in September to dealing cocaine. But he appears to have violated terms of his probation several times. That never came to the attention of numerous officials who are now blaming one another. Had they known, Santiago probably would have been in jail the night the teenager was killed.

"Had they known he was on probation, they could have charged him with a felon in possession of a firearm," said state Department of Corrections spokesman Joseph Papy. "That's a five-year penalty."

"You wonder, how can this happen?" said Paul Hayes, the father of Kevin Alexander Hayes, an honors student and star athlete who police say was killed by Santiago.

"The sad part is my kid died because of street violence, . . . and that's what we have police and law enforcement to take care of," Hayes said.

Santiago was arrested May 4, months after he pleaded guilty to the cocaine charge, and charged with firing a .38-caliber pistol outside the same club where the teenager was killed.

Neither the arresting officer nor jail personnel realized Santiago's arrest should have been flagged with an additional charge of violating probation. Had that been done, a probation officer could have asked a judge to hold Santiago until a hearing to determine whether probation should have been revoked.

Instead, Santiago was set free on $4,000 bond that May afternoon.

Papy said the Department of Corrections is looking at why criminal justice information technicians didn't see the charges in official data bases and notify the probation officer.

Officers making arrests on the street must call a 24-hour hotline or search a DOC Web site to learn whether offenders are on probation.

"It's an extra step," Papy said.

That worried Hillsborough County Sheriff Cal Henderson enough that he wrote FDLE Commissioner James Moore last year, requesting that probation information be added into the state data base that officers automatically access in the field.

The agency agreed. But that data base has been made current only after July 1, Papy said. Santiago's probation status wasn't noticed at the Hillsborough County jail either. Sheriff's Col. David Parrish said it's not up to booking deputies to make that check. That's the job of the arresting officer or the probation officer, he said.

"You can be brought back to jail on that charge," Parrish said.

Papy said state law allows all law enforcement agencies to charge a suspect with violation of probation, and all should be rigorous.

The DOC partly relies on the state data base to track probation violations. But Santiago's May arrest was linked to his juvenile record in the state's data base, and that file did not note his probation status.

Moses Jordan, chief of investigations for the FDLE's Tampa regional center, blamed the confusion on the Hillsborough County jail, saying it sent his agency the wrong information on Santiago's race and date of birth.

"Why would they not submit the same information for the same person?" said Jordan.

But the DOC also checks jail records directly, which would have revealed the arrest.

But the May incident wasn't the only mix-up.

On April 12, Santiago tested positive for narcotics on a court-imposed urine test, and a judge ordered his probation conditions enhanced with an out-patient drug treatment program.

Yet, two months later, a Florida Highway Patrol officer pulled over Santiago and found a bag of marijuana on the dashboard, according to the arrest affidavit. Instead of charging him with violating probation, the trooper ordered Santiago to appear in court July 10.

"Now, why he would give him a notice to appear, I don't know," Papy said.

A week later, on June 12, a Tampa police officer issued Santiago a trespass warrant at the Club Atlanta on Kennedy Boulevard when he refused to leave the club. Again, Santiago was given a notice to appear in court.

He never showed up. A warrant was issued for his arrest July 13, records show. Officers hadn't had time to arrest him before he was charged with the shooting the following week that killed Hayes and injured 24-year-old Derrick Philips, the man police say Santiago intended to harm.

Santiago is being held in the Hillsborough County jail. He has no bail.

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

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