Short on funds, Felix Ventura said he and his buddy Elmer Serrano Lopez went on a two-day theft spree in Golden Gate Estates early this week.
By Thursday, Ventura was behind bars and Serrano Lopez was dead.
“We weren’t working. We didn’t have no money. We had to pay rent,” Ventura, 19, said from jail on Friday, a day after he was arrested on nine felony burglary and grand theft charges, including the theft of a firearm that he said was later used to shoot his friend.
The trio of break-ins, during which the homes were “ransacked” according to Sheriff’s Office reports, started at the 4600 block of 11th Avenue Southwest on June 20, where a .45 caliber Colt 1911 semi-automatic pistol, a 9mm Sig Sauer hangun, and a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson were stolen from the residence.
The other two burglaries occurred on June 22 at the 3300 block of 11th Avenue Southwest and the 3600 block of 13th Avenue Southwest. Homeowners reported jewelry, musical instruments, and electronics stolen, in addition to the firearms, according to Sheriff’s Office reports.
Ventura said he received a call from Serrano Lopez around 1 a.m. on Thursday, telling him that he was waiting outside of Ventura’s Naples Manor home in a truck and wanted company to sell some of the items they had stolen.
An hour later they ended up at a strip of parking spaces on nearby Fleming Street, where Ventura said 45-year-old Roland Marks, an acquaintance of Serrano Lopez, had set up a meeting with “a black guy” and several other people, none of whom Ventura said he knew.
As Serrano Lopez showed the men the only gun left of the three stolen earlier in the week — he’d sold the other two — Ventura said he turned away to get his cell phone.
The first shots rang out, Ventura said, and Serrrano Lopez went down.
Ventura left the truck running and fled to the home he shared with his uncle at the 5300 block of Georgia Street
“When I seen him fall, I took off running... I took off to my house,” Ventura said.
As he ran off, a bullet grazed his chin. A family who lives next to where the shooting occurred said they found drops of blood on the ground and on the back wall of their home.
Ventura said that before he fled, Marks was still standing. According to Sheriff’s Office reports, Marks was shot before driving a truck to the 7-Eleven store at Rattlesnake Hammock Road and U.S. 41 East and requesting assistance. He was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital with serious injuries.
Sheriff’s Office reports confirm that a Chevrolet pick-up truck was located during the homicide investigation with items inside that matched stolen property from the Golden Gate Estates burglaries. Ventura said he and Serrano Lopez were driving a Chevrolet truck during the thefts as well as at the time of the shooting.
Although the .45 Smith and Wesson gun Ventura is charged with stealing was discovered during the course of the investigation into Thursday morning’s shooting, Ventura said he doesn’t know why the gun was fired, and he wasn’t the one who killed Serrano Lopez.
“I would never do that,” Ventura said. “That’s my friend. I know his family.”
They met as students at Manatee Middle School. Serrano Lopez’s twin brother Walter Serrano confirmed from the Naples Jail Center that they knew each other.
The 20-year-old twins, who according to Sheriff’s Office reports lived at the 5400 block of Bryant Avenue in Naples Manor, were arrested in March on charges of marijuana possession; Elmer Serrano Lopez was released in May, while Walter Serrano remains in jail.
The brothers are referred to in Sheriff’s Office reports from 2009 and 2010 as known gang members, however Walter Serrano said he believes the shooting was not gang related and that neither he nor his brother have been in any gangs.
Collier County Sherriff’s Office spokesperson Michelle Batten said they are unable to comment on Ventura’s version of events.
No arrests have been made in the shooting.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 252-9300, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-8477.
Staff writer Chad Gillis contributed to this report.