Claudia Seijo says a group of 30 friends had just arrived to celebrate her birthday when they were all ordered into a back bedroom at gunpoint by Charlie Christopher Bates, who later died after a police pursuit and shootout with law enforcement.
Tampa, Florida - It was an evening of surprises on Claudia Seijo's 20th birthday.
"My fiancé is like, 'Happy birthday!' and then I hear people knocking on my door and there is literally 30 people lined up outside," said Seijo recalling all the excitement.
But none of those who arrived to celebrate ever expected violence. So when an armed intruder casually walked inside many thought it was a prank!
"We were thinking typical "Hang Over party scene... the one random guy comes in and he's acting like he's a burglar."
But the laughs quickly turned to terror when Seijo says the intruder ordered everyone into a back bedroom eventually opening fire after someone attempted to call 911.
"He said, 'I know it was you, I know it was you, punk,'" recalls Seijo. "That's when he pointed the gun at my fiancé and he said, 'If you don't tell me who it was I swear I'll kill this guy right now' And no one was saying anything because we know if we said anything that guy was probably going to die."
At one point, friends believe, Bates intended to rape one of the three girls attending the party, only changing his mind after finding out she had a boyfriend.
"If he would have taken our friend, things would have gone completely different. We probably would have retaliated on it and tried to defend her because at the end of the day, it was 30 of us against one guy," said Seijo.
The group of friends say they didn't fight back sooner out of fear someone would end up dead.
"It is a small room, he can just shoot the gun wherever and the chances are it would have hit one of us."
With more party guests continually arriving Bates fled as quickly as he arrived leaving Claudia Seijo with a 20th birthday she'll never forget, one providing this young college student with a whole new perspective on life.
"I'm going to see my birthday in two different ways. I got held hostage with all my friends and almost died, and two, I've got to cherish my life a little more because I don't know when it's going to end."
Related: Radio transmission of Bates police chase released
The manhunt for Bates eventually ended Friday afternoon with a high speed chase with police and a shootout that left the suspect dead.
RAW VIDEO: Police chase, shootout with USF manhunt suspect **WARNING GRAPHIC FOOTAGE**
MORE VIDEO: Police footage of the chase and shootout
Beau Zimmer, 10 News