A family-oriented community where “everyone knows everyone.” That’s how people describe the area around 10th Street and Central Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas, where four men were gunned down and five more injured at a modest, neighborhood bar early Sunday morning.
“It’ll never be the same. It’ll never be the same in there,” said an employee of Tequila KC, who only identified herself as Jody. She said most of the people in the bar Saturday night were regulars.
Four men — Martin Rodriguez-Gonzales, 58; Alfredo Calderon, 29; Ebar Meza-Aguirre, 29, and Francisco Anaya-Garcia, 34 — died in the shooting.
Authorities identified the suspected shooters as Hugo Villanueva-Morales and Javier Alatorre. Alatorre was arrested Sunday afternoon.
At a vigil Monday evening, more than a hundred people walked along Central Avenue from 13th Street to 10th Street, where they placed candles at the door of the bar.
Families of the four men who were killed in the shooting led the crowd to the bar. They wore white T-shirts with the faces of the victims and the words “Rest in Peace, Kings.”
An official with the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas, offered condolences.
For Eric Chavarria, who says he knew the men who were killed, those condolences felt hollow. Speaking in Spanish, he said Hispanic communities are used to hearing apologies.
“People come and they say, ‘Sorry, sorry.’ How many tragedies have happened and they always say the same … and don’t do anything,” Chavarria said.
He said it’s time to take action.
“Get going and do something good,” he said. “No guns, no guns, no guns.”
Seventeen-year-old Elysia Najera says one of the victims, Alfredo Calderon, is a member of her family. She carried a sign that said “end gun violence.” She wants government officials to listen to her community’s pleas to curb violent crime.
“I feel like we’re saying what needs to be said, but, like, we’re speaking up and nobody is listening or taking action to help the gun control and all that,” she said.
Still, she said the community will rally around one another for comfort.
For area businesses, a blow to their reputation
Earlier Monday, businesses opened for the first time since the shooting. For many, it was business as usual. But some shop owners said things felt different Monday morning.
“Something broke,” Josefina Saenz said in Spanish. Saenz owns seafood restaurant El Pirata, just a block from Tequila KC.
“This is a calm area but we feel like that calm was broken. Here, we felt like we all knew each other and all the business owners supported one another,” Saenz said.
Saenz has run the tiny restaurant on Central Avenue for nearly 20 years and said she and other business owners have worked hard to make Central Avenue a welcoming place.
She hopes that rather than scare people off, that the tragedy will encourage more people to come visit and support small businesses along the corridor.
Salvador Velasco, who owns Velasco Auto Sound, told KCUR in Spanish that the shooting Sunday could have happened anywhere. He said there’s no reason for people to avoid the area — although he said he would appreciate police giving it some extra surveillance at night.
“Everybody has this perception of KCK that it’s not safe, but it’s safe,” said Jeff Farr, who works at Central Auto Care & Auto Sales.
Farr says he used to own a Subway restaurant on Central, as well as one on 77th and State Line Road.
He says the shop on Central was robbed twice, while the one on State Line road was robbed ten times. Farr said the national media coverage of the shooting could give people the wrong impression.
“People that are just sitting out in the suburbs or out in the country, this is all they hear, ‘Oh, people in the city, they’re always getting shot,’” Farr said.
Unified Government Commissioner Brian McKiernan echoed that sentiment Monday evening at the vigil.
“One of the very first things that I heard on Sunday morning was, ‘Well that’s to be expected down there,” McKiernan said. “And I reject that.”
“This is a good neighborhood that is full of good people who work hard every day of their lives to make live better for themselves their family and the community.”
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.