Arlington bar manager who was fatally shot is remembered as always wearing a smile

A vigil is held Thursday night for Cesar Perez, a manager at Zona Caliente Sports Bar and Grill in south Arlington who was fatally shot Wednesday night.
A vigil is held Thursday night for Cesar Perez, a manager at Zona Caliente Sports Bar and Grill in south Arlington who was fatally shot Wednesday night.

The gunman who went into an Arlington sports bar and killed a manager Wednesday came in with two loaded guns and two knives, Arlington police said Thursday.

“He had the capacity to harm many more people in the business if he wanted to,” said police spokesman Lt. Christopher Cook.

James Jones, 48, of Grand Prairie went into Zona Caliente Sports Bar and Grill about 6:15 p.m., walked up to the bar and started yelling and making incoherent, strange statements, witnesses told police.

The manager, Cesar Perez, 37, of Duncanville, walked over to try to calm Jones down, Cook said. Jones pulled out a gun and fatally shot him.

A few seconds later, a customer armed with a concealed handgun approached Jones and shot him to death, Cook said.

Jones did not have a license to carry a gun, Cook said. Police do not believe Jones and Perez knew each other.

The customer who shot the gunman has a license to carry and is not expected to face charges, Cook said.

“By all accounts, he decided to engage the shooter because he wanted to prevent further loss of life,” Cook said.

Lucia Garcia, one of the managers at the nightclub, thanked the customer, who she said comes to the club often.

Garcia stood with other employees, friends and relatives of Perez and well-wishers during a vigil outside the nightclub Thursday evening.

Garcia said she was on her way home when she heard about the attack. Perez had replaced her for the night shift, Garcia said.

Jones “went to the bar and started a commotion,” Garcia said. “Before Cesar could ask if everything was OK, he was shot.”

Garcia described the incident as a random attack.

“I’m just glad that people were able to come here today and see that this is not us,” Garcia said. “Just a crazy man.”

Garcia said the nightclub will remain closed until further notice.

Jones apparently didn’t know who was shooting at him, because he fired shots at the front door before he died, Cook said. Police are investigating whether he had a history of mental illness or was intoxicated. Authorities don’t know why he targeted Zona Caliente and was so heavily armed.

Kevin Cabajal, 25, said he once worked at the nightclub and became fast friends with Perez.

Perez was never angry at anyone and always had a smile on his face, Cabajal said, and he was always talking about his four children.

“I was coming to the club when I saw the news on social media,” Cabajal said. “I was thinking it was just going to be another regular Wednesday hanging out with friends.”

The business is a blue sign establishment, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, meaning alcohol does not make up 51 percent or more of its sales and that it was legal for the customer to carry his firearm inside, Cook said.

There was some confusion because the business had posted both a blue sign and a red sign. A red sign means no firearms are allowed. Cook said the red sign was probably a mistake.

Arlington Police are looking for these 10 fugitives. Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest. Call 817-469-8477. Police warn citizens not to attempt to arrest or detain of the subjects because they might be armed

Mark David Smith: 817-390-7808, @MarkSmith_FWST

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