FRESNO — Police said Friday they are still trying to establish a motive in the killing of seven people last weekend at a cantina--the worst mass killing in Fresno history.
At a news conference, lead homicide investigator Sgt. Daryl Green said "there is no motive to release" in the Carrillo's Club killings. The dead have been identified as nightclub owner Reyes (Ray) Carrillo, 45, his mother, his half-brother, a friend and three employees. Carrillo's wife and another person were wounded.
The bar was a center for drug and prostitution activity, neighbors and patrons said, and they speculated that Carrillo might have been caught up in something illicit.
But Green said that background profiles of the victims are still being developed and that to focus exclusively on rumors involving the nightclub owner or any of the other victims would be a "wrong assumption" at this time.
"I have questions on seven people's livelihoods," Green said.
Two men toting semi-automatic weapons walked into the nightclub on the city outskirts after the 2 a.m. closing Sunday and opened fire. Relying on the statement of a surviving security guard, homicide investigators at first said the motive was retaliation by two men for being denied entrance to the bar.
But after those two men were arrested, they provided airtight alibis and investigators said they had made a mistake. On Friday, Sgt. Green said the error had cost the five-member team working the case valuable time.
"It set us back a full day," he said. "But I don't think in the end it will hurt us."
Family members who were not at the scene say one of the gunmen tried to force open the safe after the shooting. Sgt. Green said robbery remains a possible motive, but he said he did not know if either gunman demanded cash before the shooting occurred.
Bertha Rudino, who lives behind the bar and leased the building to Carrillo, said she counted 20 shots. "There were bodies scattered all over the place, Ray was face down in the kitchen," Rudino said. "His mother was near the bar. There was someone in the poolroom. It seemed like they had all been shot in the head."
For the past decade, neighbors said, they have been asking authorities to shut down the nightclub, which they say is the scene of numerous shootings, stabbings and rapes, along with heavy drug and prostitution activity.
But the nightclub sits in a kind of political no-man's-land on the city-county border, they said, and meetings with police, sheriff's deputies, state alcohol agents and elected county officials have resulted in only a few arrests.
State Alcohol Beverage Control records show that Carrillo's Club and another bar owned by Carrillo have been the subject of several disciplinary actions for illegal "bar girl" activity and other violations. Bar girls receive a commission for persuading customers to buy expensive drinks by holding out the possibility of having sexual relations with them.
The fines and suspensions against Carrillo's Club had become more severe over the years, said ABC supervising investigator Lupe Garcia. In a pending case involving bar girl activity at Carrillo's Club, state alcohol regulators had recommended a 60-day license suspension with a penalty of revocation if Carrillo continued the practice during a three-year period.