Kansas City Police Are Looking For Two Men Suspected Of Shooting Patrons Of A Tequila Bar
It was a normal Saturday night for Tequila Kansas City Bar (TKC) bartender, Jose Valdez. He was serving new customers and old when a familiar, unwelcome face walked in at 11 p.m. asking for a drink. Valdez refused to serve the man, recalling the issues he’s caused the bar in the past. The man threw a glass at him and he was promptly escorted out. At 1:30 a.m., the same man walked back into the bar with a friend and handguns. Smoke filled the tiny room as they shot people at random.
Four Latino men were killed and five other victims were wounded. TKC is a private, members-only bar that has always been regarded as a “safe space” for the Latino community. Three of the slain were second-generation TKC patrons. Their parents were also members.
TKC usually staffs a security guard, but he didn’t show up that night.
The owner of Tequila KC Bar told KMBC reporter Matt Evans that the bar scheduled a security guard that night, but “he never showed up.” Kansas City, Kansas Police confirmed that they had arrived on the scene earlier in the night. The suspect had picked a fight with someone as he was being escorted out and the two brawled outside. By the time the police arrived, the fight was over and they left.
Shock and adrenaline allowed the wounded to escape from the bar before the pain set in.
Two hours later, the suspect arrived with an accomplice and handguns. Survivors recall hearing at least a dozen gunshots, and could barely see through the gun smoke.
“They went off so quick I didn’t think it was gunshots,” customer Michael Barajas told the Kansas City Star.
The two gunmen are still at large.
Police have released security camera images of the suspects, in hopes that anyone who recognizes them will come forward. Police have yet to name the suspects, and police spokesman Officer Thomas Tomasic told The Kansas City Star that he doesn’t believe the shooting was racially motivated. “It’s a pretty small bar,” Tomasic told the paper. “You have two guys come in, start shooting, people are just running. People are just running wherever they can.”
Victim Alfredo Calderon had a 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter to raise.
While police haven’t released the names of any of the victims, some family members are coming forward to remember their deceased. Juan Ramirez told reporters that his 29-year-old nephew, Alfredo Calderon, died in the shooting. “We’re just in shock and disbelief,” Ramirez told The Kansas City Star, adding that his nephew had “nothing to do with it.”
This wasn’t bartender Valdez’s first shooting either. “I don’t know what to make of it,” he told The Kansas City Star, through tears. “A sad day for everybody who lost their lives and their families. How can you go into a place full of people and just start shooting?” He said he hugged his own niños Sunday morning, saying “pray to God I’m here.”
When a witness’s fiancé was shot, she tried to stop the bleeding and “held him till he took his last breath.”
Shay Celedon was at TKC with her best friend and her fiancé, both of whom have yet to be identified. Celedon said the two were waiting until after her niece’s quinceañera to get down to wedding planning hoping to tie the knot in October 2020. The three were enjoying their night until they witnessed the violent fight outside the bar. Celedon got a sinking feeling and decided to go home for fear that “something bad would happen.”
“None of it really seems real right now,” she told CNN. “We were sitting here yesterday evening having drinks with my best friend’s fiancé. I go home, go to bed, get woken up two hours later that he’s deceased, and she held him till he took his last breath, and tried to bring him back and keep pressure on his gunshot wound. And it was just one fatal shot that took him from us.”
Tequila Kansas City Bar “was a home away from home, you could say.”
Toni Maciel, 36, knew seven of the nine victims personally. While she returned to TKC the following day to be with her “TKC family” and community, she doesn’t feel safe anymore. Maciel knows the wife of the alleged shooter. During a karaoke night just two days prior, she witnessed him physically abuse his wife. Maciel intervened and asked him to leave. “This was a home away from home, you could say,” she told The Kansas City Star. “But after this, I don’t know what would happen with our community.”
Tequila Kansas City Bar hosted a vigil for the victim Sunday night at 7 p.m.
As we report on this story, the community is gathering around TKC to pay vigil to the deceased. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly released a statement saying she continues “to be frustrated that these mass shootings and killings occur with regular frequency. Our nation has an obligation to address this ongoing public health crisis.”