As dusk descended Monday, hundreds affected by a mass shooting that left four dead in Kansas City, Kansas, somberly walked three blocks to the front door of the bar where the killings unfolded.
Some walked arm-in-arm. Others carried candles illuminating photos with the faces of those killed. Several wore shirts that read “Rest in Peace Kings.”
The community walk along Central Avenue united families of the victims, local leaders and survivors of the shooting.
Early Sunday morning, four people were shot dead and five others wounded when two gunmen opened fire at Tequila KC.
Police identified the victims as Everardo Meza, 29, Alfredo Calderon Jr., 29, Francisco Garcia Anaya, 34, and Martin Rodriguez-Gonzalez, 58.
Two men have been charged with four counts each of first-degree murder.
On Sunday, Micheal Barajas, 31, was standing near the pool table when he suddenly heard gunshots.
“About the time I saw the gunfire, it hit my arm,” he recounted.
He ran out of the bar and called for help.
A bullet is still lodged in his shoulder blade.
The father of three boys said the massacre was “just bone chilling.”
But as a survivor, he said, it “makes you want to go home, hug your kids, take advantage of your life.”
Standing near the doorway to the bar where dozens of candles had been placed, Brian McKiernan, a Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, commissioner, said he’s encountered some negative comments.
“One of the very first things I heard on Sunday morning was ‘Well you know, that’s to be expected down there.’ And I reject that,” he said.
“Let me tell you what I know about this neighborhood. This is a good neighborhood that is full of good people who work hard every single day of their lives to make life better for themselves, their family and their community.”
Anna Delich, a regular at Tequila KC, said she’s heard ugly judgments about the bar. She said some people don’t understand what a “tight-knit family” had been forged there.
She knew three of the victims.
“It should not have happened,” she said. “It saddens me.”
The four victims were memorialized by their loved ones, who continued to reel in the aftermath of the shooting.
Alfredo Calderon Jr.
Calderon, 29, left behind a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter who meant the world to him, relatives said.
“He cared about those babies so much,” said Celeste Trevino, who identified Calderon as her brother-in-law.
He’d do anything for those kids, his family said.
Born in Kansas City, Kansas, Calderon graduated from Bishop Ward High School in 2009, according to his obituary. His education helped “mold who he became as a person,” according to the online fundraiser.
Calderon owned a heating and cooling business for several years, loved ones said. On Facebook, three customers who left reviews gave his business five stars, calling his work reliable and his customer service great.
One woman wrote: Calderon “went out of his way to make sure my AC was up and running as soon as possible.”
Calderon attended All Saints Catholic Church, where his funeral Mass will be held.
In the final hours of his life, Meza did something he loved: he danced.
Known to loved ones as “Ever,” Meza talked to Celeste Trevino that evening. She liked him. He introduced her to some of his family members. The two danced.
“Every time we were out, he just wanted to dance,” said Toni Maciel, Trevino’s cousin.
Trevino insisted on buying him a beer early Sunday morning, but he declined. He believed men should take care of women, Maciel said. Looking back, Trevino said she wished he would have let her get him that drink.
She had been at the bar for only an hour before the horror began.
Meza and Trevino were together when two armed men walked inside and started shooting. He pushed her to the floor, away from the gunfire, she told reporters Sunday afternoon through tears. It’s likely why she got out alive, she said.
“He saved me,” Trevino said.
Trevino heard repeated shots. She thought to herself: “Oh my God. Where’s Ever? Where’s Ever?”
Maciel was grateful Meza pushed her younger cousin to the ground. She described Meza, 29, as taking the bullet for her.
“He’s always going to be a hero in my eyes,” Maciel said. “I’m forever thankful of that.”
Meza was a regular at Tequila KC, where patrons of all ages gathered. It’s where he and friends usually watched his beloved Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs. Friends had plans to catch a game there Sunday, Maciel said.
“He was a great kid,” she said Monday. “He wouldn’t harm anybody.”
Francisco Garcia Anaya
Anaya and his fiancee had hoped to marry next October and were working through details like the music and what to wear. The couple expected to get more serious about plans after her niece’s Quinceañera in December. They wanted to have a child.
“They were working on their future,” said Shay Celedon, a friend of Anaya’s fiancee. “He was trying to give her a life she deserved.”
Anaya was hardworking, and spent a mandatory 52 hours a week at his job building cranes. He worked six days a week at times, Celedon said.
“He was a good dude,” she said.
The fourth victim, Rodriguez-Gonzalez, was visiting from out of town, police said.
Police took one suspect, Javier Alatorre, 23, into custody Sunday. A second suspect, Hugo Villanueva-Morales, 29, remained at large.