A man was wounded and two other men — including the suspected shooter — are dead after a gunman opened fire inside a Long Beach bar early Wednesday, sending patrons fleeing to safety.
Police said an officer was flagged down in the 1700 block of East Artesia Boulevard about 12:20 a.m. by a person who told him someone was shooting inside the Bottoms Up Tavern. The officer heard gunfire inside the bar and headed toward the entrance, said Shaunna Dandoy, a Long Beach Police Department spokeswoman.
The officer, who has not been identified, was still outside when he saw the shooter and opened fire through the open front door. The gunman retreated to another part of the bar where investigators suspect he shot and killed a patron.
SWAT officers searched the building where they found the gunman, still holding a revolver-style firearm, and a wounded man. Both men died at the scene, Dandoy said.
Their names were not immediately released. It is not clear whether the gunman died from an officer’s bullet or took his own life.
Police said the gunman first opened fire after he confronted a man inside the bar. The gunman shot the man, who then fled the building and was taken to a hospital with a non-life threatening wound to the upper torso, Dandoy said. It is not clear what prompted the altercation.
The gunfire sent people running from the bar. Some of the patrons suffered minor injuries as they fled the location. Three women and a man hid in the bathroom and were later found by police, Dandoy said.
Investigators found a bullet casing that doesn’t match the gunman’s weapon or the officer’s weapon, leading authorities to suspect there may have been a second shooter involved in the incident. Authorities are trying to determine the identity of that person and their role.
The bar employees and patrons were part of a close-knit community. Most of the patrons were regulars. Several employees said they were family or godparents to each other‘s children.
Based on what employees inside the bar during the shooting told her, bar owner Suzanne Blevins said she believes the shooting was a random act by a first-time patron.
The incident began with an interaction between the gunman and a cook, she said.
“There was nothing happening,” Blevins said. “He just said that ‘It’s gonna go down'… The guy ordered his drink. It wasn’t threatening, it was just weird. That’s when the gun came out.”
Blevins said the gunman pointed the gun at the cook and the two men briefly struggled. The cook jumped over the bar and fled. The gunman then began shooting others, Blevin’s employees told her.
“He didn’t want him, he just wanted anybody. It’s very weird, very random,” said Blevins.
Coroner’s officials have not identified the deceased men, but a family member confirmed the dead victim as Manuel Marquez, a 44-year-old bar employee.
Marquez began working at the bar just months ago as a maintenance worker but had recently asked for additional shifts behind the bar for financial help during the holiday season, Blevins said.
“He was hella cool,” Marquez’s sister, Cindy Marquez, said. “He got along with everybody, everybody liked him. Did anything and would help anybody, anybody. He helped around the bar, he would fix things. The girls needed something, he would help them.”
Blevins said she believes Marquez saved a bartender’s life. As the gunman shot at patrons, he and the bartender hid behind the bar. When there was a pause in the shooting, he urged her to run.
“I guess he didn’t feel like he had enough time,” Blevins said. “I don’t know why he wouldn’t go. He’s quick on his feet.”
Police say quick actions by bystanders and officers also likely prevented additional fatalities.
“Those individuals who alerted our officer to the incident and officers who took quick action prevented potentially additional casualties from occurring,” Dandoy said.