ANCHORAGE — A shootout that left two men dead and two people injured at an East Anchorage bar Monday started with heated words inside the bar, then spilled into the bar’s parking lot, where the fight quickly became a gunbattle, according to new court documents.
Emelio Ramirez, 35, and Ka Meng Chang, 28, died outside J.J.’s Lounge off Muldoon Road on Monday just after midnight, police said.
One man, 25-year-old Lee Chee Chang, is charged with killing Ramirez. Lee Chee Chang is Ka Meng Chang’s brother, his lawyer said. The younger Chang turned himself in to police late Wednesday and appeared in court Thursday. Two others have been jailed in connection to the shootings.
It remains unclear if homicide detectives believe additional shooters are on the loose. A police spokesman said Thursday that investigators are still looking for suspects and witnesses.
According to charging documents filed by prosecutors against Lee Chee Chang, witnesses told homicide detectives that Ramirez got into a verbal disagreement with one or more people inside the bar.
“The guys were actually playing pool together,” J.J.’s co-owner Jerry Buffington said in an interview Thursday.
Ramirez, who often went by the name “Mario,” was a decent pool player and a regular at the bar, Buffington said.
“Mario told me himself he mouthed off to the guy and said, ‘Hey, what are you glaring at? I could shoot you,’ “ Buffington said. But Ramirez apologized to the man soon after and the argument seemed to calm down until another man, one of those later injured, kept “flapping his lips,” Buffington said.
The charging papers filed against Lee Chee Chang say Ramirez began calling friends, telling them to come to the bar. He told at least one person that “he needed help because he thought he was going to get jumped,” the court papers say. Two of Ramirez’s friends and his girlfriend either showed up at the bar or were already there. Ramirez attacked an Asian man in the parking lot and others soon jumped into the fight, witnesses told police.
Guns were drawn, shots were fired and Ramirez was hit multiple times, including once in the head, the court papers say. Police found his body in the bar parking lot and, later, shell casings of multiple calibers.
Ka Meng Chang was found dead on Muldoon Road. Detectives are not saying yet if they believe Ramirez shot and killed Ka Meng Chang or if another person is responsible for Chang’s death, said police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker.
“It’ll all come out when the timing is right,” Parker said.
A man driving on Muldoon Road told detectives he saw a 6-foot-tall man in a blue coat standing over a body in the parking lot fire a shot into the body — apparently Ramirez’s — then give the gun to a man in a red jacket and hat. Police later identified the man in the red jacket as Vang Chang, 29. Police believe he is related to Ka Meng Chang and Lee Chee Chang.
The witness followed Vang Chang, who pointed the gun at him, police said. Officers found Vang Chang about 12 hours after the shootings and brought him to the police department for an interview, the court papers say.
Vang Chang told the detectives he saw Lee Chee Chang standing over Ramirez and watched as Lee Chee Chang shot Ramirez, according to the court documents.
Lee Chee Chang was arraigned on first-degree murder charges and held without bail Thursday afternoon after turning himself in at the police department the night before.
Detectives had already written up an arrest warrant for Lee Chang, whom they named as a “person of interest” Tuesday, said Parker, the police spokesman. Chang turned himself in while detectives were waiting for a magistrate to sign the warrant, Parker said.
“It was a coincidence that the timing worked out like that,” he said. Taking the advice of his lawyer, Rex Butler, Chang did not make a statement to the detectives Wednesday night.
Family members, some of whom were at the arraignment hearing, were in “turmoil” with burial plans for one brother and another in jail, Butler said.
Many pieces of the case still remain unclear and need to be investigated, said Butler, who added that he had not yet seen autopsy results in the case.
Butler pointed out that, while a witness described the man who shot Ramirez as 6 feet tall, his client stands a little more than 5 feet.
And if prosecutors can even show that Chang shot Ramirez, they’d have to prove the shot killed Ramirez to get a murder conviction, Butler said.
“Whoever fired that bullet may have fired into a corpse,” he said.