ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Friends of Zona Caliente Sports Bar manager Cesar Perez describe him as more like family than coworker, a caring father of four (ages 18, 17, 12 and 10) and as having an unflappably laid back and good-natured attitude.
What his friends can’t describe is why someone would walk into his restaurant and murder him.
When gunfire was exchanged at the restaurant on South Cooper Street in Arlington Wednesday, employees and customers ran outside to a gym in the strip mall.
“All of a sudden a crowd of people from Zona came running towards me and one of the girls pulled me aside and said there was a shooter,” said the general manager of Snap Fitness Jon Drummond.
Just minutes before, 48-year-old James Jones walked into Zona Caliente. Nobody there recognized Jones, but he caught everyone’s attention.
“Some witnesses say he was incoherent, wasn’t making sense,” said Lt. Chris Cook, Arlington Police Department spokesman. “Some other witnesses say it was just strange and odd behavior so the manager actually walked over to try to calm this individual down.”
Witnesses say that’s when Jones shot 37-year-old Perez at point blank range, killing him. A customer who was legally carrying a gun told his wife to stay down then drew his weapon and shot Jones.
“As he was struck at least once, he began firing rounds at the front door. It’s almost as if he thought he was being shot at from someone coming in the front,” Cook said.
Customers and staff ran to Snap Fitness, certain that Jones was going to continue killing people.
“Everybody kind of went towards the back of the club because we thought that was the safest place to be seeing as we have all this glass up front,” said Drummond.
“It was very emotional. Very emotional. There was a lot of crying and stuff,” he said.
Police later found another pistol and two knives on Jones. But the concealed carry customer killed him before Jones could put the other weapons to use.
“We could be talking about a totally different story with the amount of firepower that he had on him,” Lt. Cook said.