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'All I Can See Is Their Faces': 4 Killed, 5 Injured In Bar Shooting In Kansas City, Kansas

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Toni Maciel (right) comforts Jessica Gonzalez, whose partner Francisco died. Maciel started the vigil by saying: 'There are people who want to be here, but they can't take the loss.'

Updated at 7:00 a.m. Oct. 7 — Celeste Trevino was dancing with a "friend of a friend" early Sunday morning at Tequila KC. It was about a half-hour before closing time when two men came into the close-knit neighborhood bar in Kansas City, Kansas. One of the men walked toward the pair.

“We were talking and dancing,” she said through tears at a Sunday night vigil, “and the next thing I knew, he wasn’t there anymore.”

Her dance partner, whom she called Ever, was killed, along with three other Latino men ranging in age from their mid 20 to late 50s. Five others were wounded. Police said they don’t believe the shooting was racially motivated — but said it wasn’t random, either.

Early Monday morning, Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department identified the two suspects as Hugo Villanueva-Morales, 29, and Javier Alatorre, 23. Alatorre was taken into custody late Sunday afternoon, but Villanueva-Morales was still at large. Police said he should be considered armed and dangerous and asked anyone who had seen him or knew of his whereabouts to call 911 or the TIPS hotline, 816-474-8477. Both men have been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, with bond set at $1 million each.

Credit Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department
Kansas City, Kansas Police Department photos of Hugo Villanueva-Morales (left) and Javier Alatorre, suspects in the Tequila KC shooting that left 4 dead and 5 injured.

While some friends and family members of the men who were killed provided names to the media, authorities have not identified the dead. All were Latino men — two in their mid 20s, one in his mid 30s and one in his late 50s. Mexico's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, tweeted that two of the dead were from Mexico.  

Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
The exterior of Tequila KC, where nine people were shot, four fatally, early Sunday morning. A sign on the bar door specifically says no guns are allowed.

"Everyone talks about coming here, birthday parties, we do karaoke every Thursday."

About 40 people were in the establishment at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Kansas City, Kansas, police spokesman Thomas Tomasic said. When police arrived, people were running out of the bar, which is near the intersection of 10th Street and Central Avenue. 

Trevino told the dozens gathered behind the bar for Sunday's vigil that inside there was "a lot of shooting" and “blood everywhere” as she crawled to get behind “a table, get behind chairs, trying to get to my aunt who was on the other side.”

Tequila KC is a place where “you knew everybody,” according to Toni Maciel, who told KCUR that she didn’t think the suspects were regulars.

“Everyone talks about coming here, birthday parties, we do karaoke every Thursday, it’s great,” Maciel said.

One of the victims was her friend's fiancé, whom she identified as Francisco.

"He was a great man. He was going to baptize my 5-month-old niece," Maciel said. "They were trying to have a family. Everything was going good. They were in love. Very. They were going to get married."

She also knew two others who were fatally shot, and said two family members were wounded and in stable condition.

Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Celeste Trevino (left) witnessed the shooting at Tequila KC early Sunday morning. She is being comforted by Evonne Ontiveros.

At the vigil, some friends and family members were willing to discuss what happened with the media, while others asked for “no cameras.” A woman who’d been wounded in the shooting held another woman who’d lost her fiancé.

Trevino, who credited her aunt with getting her out safely, said she saw a gunman walk toward her and Ever.

“I’m pretty sure he still had my lipstick on his cheek when he died,” she said. “because I remember kissing him on the cheek.”

Trevino's brother-in-law was also killed. And as welcoming as the bar has been to the community, Trevino said, “I don’t ever want to come back here. Every time I close my eyes … all I can see is their faces.”

Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3 file photo
A memorial to the victims of the Tequila KC bar shooting sits behind the building.

The shooting also rattled the business community, but Central Avenue Betterment Association Executive Director Edgar Galicia said Sunday afternoon that no business had told him they're concerned "about the viability of Central Avenue."

"All I can say is, our community's strong. These are — even though they're drastic, and even though they're painful — they are isolated events that do not reflect the bulk of the community," he said, adding later, "we will see you all on Central."

The association has planned a walk in the neighborhood starting at 13th Street at 7 p.m. Monday, followed by a conversation.

People working at a few neighboring businesses said they had little interaction with the bar owner or the bar’s patrons, but had never had any issues. James Harris, an employee at Black’s Liquor across the street from Tequila KC, said he was surprised to hear about the shooting.

“I’ve never known them to have problems,” Harris said.  

Including Sunday’s shooting, there have been 27 homicides in Kansas City, Kansas, this year. Two of those people were shot by police during altercations with officers. In 2018, the department recorded 35 homicides — down from 41 in 2017 and 47 in 2016.

Based on data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, Sunday’s incident is the deadliest shooting in Kansas since 2016. On Feb. 25 that year, three victims were killed and 14 others injured during a shooting spree in Newton and Hesston, Kansas. The suspect was shot and killed by police responding to the scene.

About two weeks later, four men were shot and killed in Kansas City, Kansas. The suspect fled to Missouri, where he shot and killed a fifth man in Montgomery County, between St. Louis and Columbia, before police arrested him.

The last major bar shooting in the U.S. was in early August, when nine people were killed and 27 were wounded in Dayton, Ohio.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said in a written statement that she was frustrated by the frequency of mass shootings.

"For now, we all must pull together to help the community and those affected by this senseless tragedy heal," Kelly said. "It's important to not only remember victims of the shooting, but also their loved ones left behind. "

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, who represents the city in Congress, called the Tequila KC shooting "senseless" in a tweet. 

KCUR reporter Chris Haxel contributed to this report.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on twitter @larodrig.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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