Old Sacramento bar shooting victims mourned

kminugh@sacbee.comJanuary 3, 2013 

Their slayings seemed as random as they were senseless.

Gabriel Cordova planned a New Year's Eve barbecue at home with family but decided to treat his wife to an evening fireworks show and a drink before grilling up platters of carne asada.

Daniel Ferrier apparently wasn't supposed to work, but the Iraq War veteran decided to fill in for a co-worker Monday night at the busy Sports Corner Cafe in Old Sacramento.

Both Cordova and Ferrier died in a chaotic shootout that erupted at the restaurant about 9:40 p.m., leaving family and friends to grieve over how suddenly the two men had joined the legion of gun violence victims of the past few weeks.

"It's horrifying; it's a nightmare for me," Adam Cordova, Gabriel's brother, said amid tears as the family gathered Wednesday at Gabriel's Sacramento home. "It could happen anywhere. Basically, it's just some random thing."

Gabriel was 35, the father of three children ranging in age from 8 to 18. He was a doting father who chaperoned his daughter to rugby practice and enjoyed playing video games online with his teenage son in Salinas.

"He was a loyal guy, really lovable," said his son Isaiah, 18, who last saw his father in October.

"He loved all his family to death. There was nobody out there who could love you the way he did. It was just something different about him."

An avid Oakland Raiders fan who had a tattoo of the team's helmet on his chest and Raiders placards in his front windows, Gabriel overlooked the fact that his son favored a Raiders rival.

"I'm a Niners fan," Isaiah said. "He's a Raider fan. It worked out."

Adam, 28, said his brother had worked for a moving company but recently was unemployed as a result of the slow economy.

"He was a good man; he was my brother," Adam said as he kept watch over Gabriel's children inside the fenced front yard of the family's home near Interstate 80 and Norwood Avenue. "I mean, I loved him."

According to Sacramento police, the New Year's Eve shooting stemmed from a barroom argument involving Gabriel, his 30-year-old wife, Christina, and the suspected aggressor, Carlito Montoya, 22.

What sparked the argument is still unclear.

Adam said his brother, who grew up in Hollister and moved to Sacramento about eight years ago, had been planning a relaxed New Year's Eve at home.

But he decided he would take his wife to the 9 p.m. fireworks show in Old Sacramento. The two hoped to enjoy a night out without children before heading home for the family barbecue, the brother said, and were accompanied by a cousin of Gabriel's.

After the show, the group apparently stopped in for a quick drink at the Sports Corner Cafe in the heart of the historic district, where the argument erupted.

When a bar employee – identified by the Coroner's Office as Daniel Ferrier, 36 – tried to intervene, Montoya pulled a handgun and began firing, according to police. A security guard returned fire and chased the gunman outside, where police arrested him.

Cordova and Ferrier were pronounced dead at the scene. Cordova's wife was shot in the foot, family members said, and is expected to recover. The security guard was injured in the exchange, as was Montoya.

Ferrier, a U.S. Army veteran and fitness buff, was a graduate of El Dorado High School, said his sister-in-law, Brandi Ferrier. He served two tours in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and later joined the National Guard. While working at the Sports Corner Cafe, he also worked as a personal trainer.

"He saved a co-worker's life," she said. "That was Daniel."

Standing amid flowers and candles on the front porch of his Placerville home, Brandi said her brother-in-law was the kind of person who would help out "in a heartbeat."

"He lived every day of life as if it was his last day," she said. "He lived to the fullest."

Friends filled Ferrier's Facebook page with messages of love and grief Wednesday, describing a loyal and compassionate man. Under political views, Ferrier wrote: "what ever = freedom and i will die for my freedom and yours."

A public records search Wednesday shed little light on Montoya, and efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful. Records indicate he recently lived in Oakland. He has no criminal history in Sacramento County.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Montoya remained hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds. Upon release, he likely faces charges of murder and attempted murder, said Officer Michele Gigante, a police spokeswoman.

She said detectives are still investigating whether Montoya was in legal possession of his handgun. He did not have a concealed-weapons permit in Sacramento County, according to the Sheriff's Department.

The security guard shot during the altercation has not been identified, though Gigante said he is 46. She credited him with reacting quickly to the violence that unfolded.

"Even though he was injured, (he did) what he needed to do to make sure that suspect didn't get away," she said.

On Wednesday, the Sports Corner remained closed, and a memorial of candles, flowers and CDs dedicated to Ferrier rose in an alcove outside. "R.I.P. to a good friend," someone wrote on a baseball cap left at the site.

The violence prompted cancellation of the midnight fireworks show and raised debate over whether such gatherings are safe. Adam Cordova was asking himself that same question Wednesday.

"There maybe should have been some portable metal detectors that went into these bars," he said. "Or into Old Sac itself.

"Maybe next year they'll have them, because we need him," he said of his brother, weeping. "If there was something there, he'd still be here."

He added: "Keep his memory out there. He's going to be missed badly."

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