Crime

‘We lost some good people, young people’: Witnesses, victims in shock after bar shooting

Jose Valdez remembered the man’s face.

He had caused issues at Tequila KC Bar previously. And when he walked in at 11 p.m. Saturday, Valdez, the bartender that night, refused to serve the man.

The man then threw a cup at Valdez and left, he said.

Shortly after last call before the 2 a.m. closing, the man came back with another man, pulled a gun and started shooting, Valdez said. He alerted the police.

People ran from the business as more than a dozen gunshots created smoke inside, Valdez said. He thought the building was “going to cave in.”

Witnesses and victims were in shock Sunday morning, searching for loved ones and processing what happened after two gunmen killed four and injured five in a shooting at the Kansas City, Kansas, bar overnight.

Two of the victims were in their 20s, one in his late 50s and another in his mid 30s.

Police have yet to identify the victims.

The bar usually employs an armed security guard, but that person did not show Saturday night, Valdez said.

“I don’t know what to make of it. A sad day for everybody who lost their lives and their families,” he said, choking up. “How can you go into a place full of people and just start shooting?”

Michael Barajas, a bar patron, said he heard a series of fast bangs.

“They went off so quick I didn’t think it was gunshots,” he said.

As he tried to process what was happening, Barajas said he focused on all the hands he could see, trying to determine who was shooting.

He saw the shots coming and felt a bullet hit his shoulder.

“I feel like I should have moved a little quicker but there was shock,” he said.

He said he ran away from the bar and texted his fiance “I’ve been shot” before eventually looping back around to see police roping off the scene

Kansas City, Kansas, police said it is difficult to determine exactly what happened at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

“It’s a pretty small bar,” Officer Tom Tomasic said. “You have two guys come in, start shooting, people are just running. People are just running wherever they can.”

Three of the people killed were regulars whose parents also drank at the bar, Valdez said. It was the first time at the bar for the fourth man slain; Valdez said he was from out of town, having a drink and just enjoying himself.

“We lost some good people, young people,” he said.

Memorial
Candles were left outside the Tequila KC Bar after a shooting killed four Sunday morning. Luke Nozicka Kansas City Star

Before the shooting, Shay Celedon was at the bar with friends when the man incited a fight. He was aggravated and yelling, Celedon recalled, and he fought one person outside. He appeared intoxicated, Celedon said.

She left, worrying something bad would happen.

When the man later returned with a firearm and another person, he allegedly shot and killed the fiance’ of Celedon’s friend. That friend put pressure on the fiancé’s wound, giving him CPR.

“She held her husband until he took his last breath,” Celedon said.

Celedon’s friend and the victim, who has not been identified by police or family members, hoped to marry in October next year. They were figuring out what to wear and what music to play. The couple expected to get more serious about their wedding plans after her niece’s Quinceañera in December, Celedon said. The two wanted to have a child.

“They were working on their future,” she said. “He was trying to give her a life she deserved.”

One of Celedon’s relatives had arrived at the bar just before the shooting and was shot near his collar bone. The bullet missed one of his arteries by a millimeter, she said. He could be released from the hospital later Sunday.

“Thank God,” she said.

More than a dozen people watched as firefighters arrived at the crime scene to hose away blood on the pavement outside the business. Some cried and hugged; others lit cigarettes.

Toni Maciel, 36, of Kansas City, Kansas, knew seven of the nine people shot, including one of her relatives who was injured and a friend’s fiancé who was slain. She told essentially the same story as Valdez—that one of the shooters had an altercation at the bar.

“He left because they kind of kicked him out, but he wouldn’t leave. He was persistent,” Maciel said. “It took about four people to kick him out. After that, maybe an hour or two later, he came back and this happened. He wasn’t by himself. He had somebody else with him.”

She hears about shootings often, she said, “but once it hits home, it’s devastating.”

The shooting was especially heartbreaking for Maciel: she knows the wife of one of the alleged shooters, she said. During last Thursday’s karaoke night, he became violent toward his wife, and Maciel suggested he leave.

Like others gathered at the crime scene, including a bartender who was scheduled to work Sunday morning, Maciel called the business a community bar where people of all ages gathered.

“This was a home away from home, you could say,” she said. “But after this, I don’t know what would happen with our community.”

She hopes the shooters are caught soon.

“These people don’t know what they did,” Maciel said. “They took a brother, a dad, a son, somebody. It’s not right.”

Juan Ramirez said his nephew, 29-year-old Alfredo Calderon, was among the victims.

His nephew had “nothing to do with it,” he said, a tear running down his face. “We’re just in shock and disbelief.”

He said his nephew left behind a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.

“I don’t wish this upon anybody,” Ramirez said.

Valdez hugged his own children early Sunday morning. It was the second shooting at a bar in the region he has witnessed, he said.

“Pray to God I’m here,” he said.

A vigil for the victims is scheduled for 7 tonight at the bar.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.
Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.
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