The DJ on the back deck at Californos on Sunday had just finished an oldies set — “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson had just played — and hundreds of people had been having a good time at the Westport party spot all afternoon.
About 8:30 p.m., the party was winding down. The bar had closed, and it only remained for the DJ to play out the last 30 minutes.
Then, gunshots. People looked around, unsure what was happening. When the panic set in, patrons ducked and ran out through all available exits.
Thomas Orr, 30, lay fatally shot on one of the raised decks in the outdoor patio, an innocent victim of indiscriminate gunfire.
The off-duty Lee’s Summit police officer, who was at the party shooting photos, had just started work as a school resource officer at Campbell Middle School last week.
The daytime party, billed as “Recovery Sunday” at Californos bar and restaurant at 4124 Pennsylvania Avenue, had grown a reputation as one of the most chic and polished hangouts for Kansas City’s black millennial crowd.
The monthly Sunday party, which was open to the public, was being held for the fourth time and had drawn the usual crowd, which filled the restaurant and an expansive outdoor deck area, drinking and listening to a mix of hip-hop, pop and oldies music.
The shooting left Orr dead and a woman in her 20s injured in the latest outbreak of violence in the Westport entertainment district. Previous shootings in Westport over the past year have left at least 14 people injured. The surge in violence has helped inspire a push to privatize a stretch of streets so that security might keep out guns, a plan that recently stalled at City Hall.
Late Monday, Kansas City police were still searching for the shooter and urged witnesses to come forward.
The Police Department posted a tweet Monday saying that of at least 200 people at the party, only three had spoken with detectives.
On Monday, the Lee’s Summit School District and police grieved along with Orr’s friends and family as Westport business owners remained frustrated with the gun violence in their area.
According to Californos owner Terry Burns, the trouble started when a large man, at least 6 feet tall and 250 pounds, punched a thinner man and ran.
As he headed toward an exit, the man turned and fired a gun into the crowd.
Police think the shooter left the scene with three other people.
Another man, possibly injured in the shooting, limped out through a back door.
Orr lay severely injured and bleeding with two bystanders working to try to save his life.
First aid: ‘These kids were heroic’
A witness, Christopher Johnson, said he tried to administer first aid to Orr, who remained conscious and breathing for some time after the shooting.
“People are running and I’m being pushed out of the gate, but I turn around and try to run back in toward the gunfire to see what’s going on because I figured someone got hit,” Johnson said Monday.
“It was only one person up there with him, so I ran up there, moved them to the side and start ordering everything that I needed.”
Johnson, who said he had been trained in CPR and first aid, used napkins to apply pressure to Orr’s wound, used a stool to prop Orr up and began talking with him to keep him alert while monitoring his pulse. Other onlookers helped.
“I didn’t see an exit wound, so I thought ‘Great, maybe it’s just lodged in his shoulder and he’s losing consciousness because he’s in shock,” Johnson said.
Johnson was joined by a Westport security officer and a Kansas City police officer.
When medical personnel arrived, Johnson told them about the first aid he had administered.
“Within 20 seconds,” Johnson said, efforts to revive Orr ceased.
“I’m not an EMT. I don’t know protocol,” Johnson says. “I understand the officers and EMTs did their best, I just wish we could have done more for the young man.”
The first firetruck with medical personnel arrived six minutes after the shooting call, Kansas City Fire Department Deputy Chief Tom Collins said Monday.
The first responders started the process of triage — determining which injured people to treat first.
Collins said the medics declared Orr “code black,” meaning he was beyond hope of survival. The woman who was shot in the arm was triaged as “code yellow,” meaning she probably would survive, and they started treating her.
Shortly after the triage, Johnson became upset when more police arrived and forced him away from the crime scene as he was trying to update the medics on Orr’s condition.
Johnson said the officer threatened to arrest him until another officer stepped in and said that Johnson had been helping.
“Those two or three minutes that I was in a hostile confrontation with the officer, that could have been two or three minutes I could have been providing information to help that guy,” Johnson said. “That’s why I’m so upset.”
Californos owner Burns witnessed the scene and commended Johnson’s efforts, but, like the medics, thought there was little more that could be done.
“The efforts that these kids made were heroic,” Burns said. “They worked really hard at it. They tried really hard to save that man’s life.”
Sunday parties: ‘These are beautiful people’
Californos had been holding “Recovery Sundays” on a monthly basis since May without any problems.
The “Recovery” series quickly became popular with the Kansas City area’s black millennial crowd, often attracting midtown lawyers, area doctors, recently transplanted Cerner engineers and local nightlife entrepreneurs.
“We’ve done this event many times, it attracts a lot of people,” Burns said. “These are beautiful people, they come, they dance in the aisles, they have a nice time.”
Even so, realizing the parties’ growing popularity and ease of entry — free of charge with no security at the door — Burns and the organizers placed doormen at the entrance for the first time on Sunday to collect a $5 cover charge and look out for any security risks.
“I saw a really great event go south over one person that was allowed to have an indiscriminate weapon on them,” Burns said.
“It just went sour, not because of us, not because of the people here, but because people are allowed to have weapons who shouldn’t and the laws are bad.”
After the shooting, Mayor Sly James was at the crime scene along with Police Chief Rick Smith.
The investigation continued Monday, and police were checking for surveillance video from nearby businesses.