ARLINGTON, Texas - Employees at an Arlington sports bar call the customer who stopped a gunman during a shooting rampage a hero.
The gunman murdered the Zona Caliente Sports Bar’s general manager, 37-year-old Cesar Perez, Wednesday night before a customer with a handgun took action and stopped the shooter.
Witnesses say Perez was trying to calm down the gunman who walked in yelling. Arlington police say they found more weapons on the shooter after he was killed and believe that it could’ve been much worse.
The atmosphere at Zona Caliente that night quickly went from family friendly to deadly. At the time of the shooting, there were about two dozen people inside the restaurant.
A couple, who did not want their faces shown or names used, were sitting at the bar with their teenage son just inches from a man who walked in and began shouting then shooting.
"I heard something about Mexicans and something about cartels,” they said. “As soon as he popped the first shot, my reaction was to grab my son and get out of there as fast as I can.”
The gunman shot and killed the restaurant’s manager, Perez, who's been described as a hard worker who knew customers by name.
"Our general manager went in to try and address him and calm him down,” said Lucia Garcia. “But before he could say anything to him, he was shot."
In the chaos that followed, a customer, whom police say was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, shot the suspect, identified as 48-year-old James Jones.
Unaware of who shot him, Jones randomly seemed to take aim at customers.
"The suspect turned around and started shooting frantically everywhere,” Garcia said.
“When the suspect initially got shot by the good guy, he actually directs his attention to the front door and starts firing rounds towards the front of the business,” explained Arlington PD Lt. Chris Cook. “And that’s when the Good Samaritan was able to put more rounds on him and take him down.”
When one man got his family outside, he went back inside to help. He says the gunman was down but still holding the gun and still breathing, so he grabbed a chair and beat him with it.
"I covered myself with a table,” the man said. “When I looked that way, I didn’t see the guy. When I looked to the floor, he was laying right in front of the bar. I grabbed the chair when he was still moving and I made sure he wasn’t going to move no more.”
The couple is still in shock and saddened that they couldn't help save Perez.
“I start talking to him. ‘Stay alive. Breathe,’” the woman said. “I don’t know. I’ve never had CPR or anything like that, but I tried to talk to him to see if he could stay alive, but he didn’t.”
Arlington police say they discovered Jones was carrying another fully loaded handgun and two knives.
The restaurant has signs posted that allow licensed handgun owners to bring in a concealed weapon, and police say the good Samaritan was well within his rights to shoot Jones.
Friends, family and coworkers gathered at the restaurant on Thursday for a vigil to commemorate him.
The restaurant says they will remain closed until further notice out of respect for Perez.