FREMONT, Ohio (AP) — An off-duty police officer celebrating his birthday and two other men were shot and killed at a northern Ohio nightclub over the weekend after an argument erupted when the shooter punched the officer’s wife, relatives said.
Police arrested 33-year-old Igmidio Mista of Fremont on Monday morning and charged him with opening fire inside the Last Call Bar early Sunday.
A warrant issued just hours before the arrest charged Mista with three counts of murder.
Officers found Mista at a home in Fremont, police said. He came to the door after a relative had met the officers, and he was taken into custody without incident, police Chief Tim Wiersma said.
A judge on Monday ordered that Mista be held without bond. City Prosecutor Jim Melle called Mista a flight risk, saying he has used relatives to evade authorities in the past and he is not a U.S. citizen. A message seeking comment was left with his attorney.
Killed in the shooting were 26-year-old Elmore police Officer Jose Andy Chavez, 28-year-old bartender Ramiro Sanchez, and a 25-year-old customer, Daniel Ramirez. A fourth man shot at the bar, 25-year-old Ramiro Arreola, was taken a hospital with injuries believed to be non-life-threatening.
“A little scuffle broke out, he felt he needed to pull a gun out,” Arreola told The (Fremont) News-Messenger. “Just started shooting everybody, innocent bystanders.”
Manuel Chavez, the slain officer’s uncle, said the shooting occurred after a man approached Chavez’s wife and began arguing her with, then punching her in the face.
“My nephews jumped on this guy,” Manuel Chavez told the Sandusky Register.
The man then left the bar and came back in a side door and began shooting, Manuel Chavez said.
The officer’s wife, who would not provide her name, told The (Toledo) Blade that she had been punched before the shooting started.
Wiersma said Sunday that the shooter had been in the bar for some time and may have gotten into a fight with another patron “when things went horribly wrong.”
Jose Andy Chavez had been at a birthday party for his daughter on Saturday night when Ramirez suggested they go out to celebrate the officer’s birthday, which had been earlier in the week, Manuel Chavez said.
The officer and his wife had two young children. He had been with the Elmore Police Department for more than two years and was an “exemplary” officer, Sgt. Jeffrey Harrison said in a statement.