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Fort Bliss soldiers were at off-limits bar before shooting wounded man in Kern Place

Rockin Cigar bar closed by county after latest violence in Cincinnati District

Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times

A shooting allegedly involving Fort Bliss soldiers in the Cincinnati Avenue Entertainment District followed an argument at a bar designated by the military as off-limits, El Paso police documents stated.

The shooting occurred Nov. 21 during a street fight recorded by police cameras posted in the nightlife area in the Kern Place neighborhood near the University of Texas at El Paso.

The shooting followed an argument at the Rockin’ Cigar Bar & Grill, which is on the Army's off-limits places list and was shut down Nov. 24 by a temporary court order obtained by the El Paso County Attorney's Office accusing the bar of being a public nuisance.

Spcs. Kervans Toussaint, 22; Dominique Mills, 23; and Alain Joaquin Hernandez, 20, were each arrested last week on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity-aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, police said.

A Fort Bliss spokesperson confirmed the men are with the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. 

Jamar Duane Belsches, 24, of Northeast El Paso, suffered a broken bones when he was shot once in the left leg, according to criminal complaint affidavits filed by police.

Shooting in Cincinnati district

According to affidavits, the soldiers told police that the incident started with an argument inside the Rockin’ Cigar Bar & Grill on Cincinnati Avenue.

About 1:45 a.m., police cameras filmed Mills walk down Cincinnati and then get into a fight with Belches at the North Mesa intersection, affidavits stated.

More:El Paso DWI suspect hits pedestrian on Mesa crosswalk in Cincinnati Entertainment District

During the fight, Belches takes Mills down to the ground before Toussaint walks up from behind, appears to take an item from his waistband that he points to Belches, who then stumbles backward onto the street with a gunshot wound, according a police description of the video.

Police noted that Mills appears to say something to Belches as he lays on the ground as Mills and Toussaint ran from the scene.

Fort Bliss soldiers stopped, gun found

A county constable patrolling the area saw the fight break out and was driving toward it when he saw a person fire one shot from a handgun before the men ran toward the Glory Road parking garage, documents stated.

Several police officers and constable deputies began arriving and surrounding the multi-level parking garage. 

Police saw through metal screening three men running down a garage staircase and stopped them as they exited the stairwell, the affidavit stated.

The affidavit stated that the men — who turned out to be the three soldiers — appeared extremely nervous, sweating and appeared to have exchanged shirts.

Violence:Video shows Fort Bliss soldier's stabbing in Cincinnati Avenue fight, El Paso police say

During a pat-down search, a Glock 19 handgun was found tucked in the waistband of Hemandez, documents stated. Hernandez was detained for unlawful carrying of a firearm because he was not 21 years of age and the handgun was not in a holster.

Hernandez has not been charged for unlawful gun possession.

When questioned at the Texas Anti-Gang center, Hernandez told police that after the shooting the three friends all ran to the parking garage to Toussaint's vehicle before running back down the staircase. While in the staircase, Hernandez was handed the gun and asked to hold it just before they ran out of bottom of the stairwell where they were stopped by police, the affidavit stated.

Shots fired:El Paso man wanted free shots before firing gun in Kern Place bar, affidavit alleges

Police cameras and parking garage security cameras recorded the shooting, the men running and exchanging shirts and then running down the staircase and stopped by officers, the affidavit stated.

El Paso Police Department cameras have been in use at various public locations since 2016.

El Paso police patrol the Cincinnati Avenue Entertainment District in Kern Place on Jan. 31. The popular bar and nightclub district has become one of the city's most-violent areas with several murders, shootings and assaults.

An investigation into the shooting continued for a few days as police reviewed video and interviewed the soldiers and the man who was shot.

On Nov. 24, Toussaint, Mills and Hernandez were arrested in connection with the shooting. They are all in Army uniforms in their jail booking photos.

Bond was set at $300,000 for Toussaint and $200,000 each for Mills and Hernandez.  All three remained at the El Paso County Jail on Tuesday.

Rockin' Cigar bar shut down

The Rockin' Cigar bar earlier this year was placed on the military's off-limits list for local establishments deemed "detrimental to welfare of service members." 

Last week, the El Paso County Attorney's Office obtained a court order temporarily shutting down the bar on Nov 24 on accusations it is a public nuisance.

The bar is accused of fostering a lawless atmosphere with repeat allegations of violence, drug sales by bar staff, underage drinking and a DJ encouraging crowds to chant "(expletive) the police" when officers entered, according to documents filed by county prosecutors.

Among the most troubling allegations are a pair of reported sexual assaults where women suspected their drinks were tampered with while at the bar in 2018 and 2019. In one case, a woman woke up in her parked car without her underwear, police reports stated.

Cinci District violence:Cellphone video shows El Paso bar brawl that led to arrest of 3 in suspected gang activity

The bar's owner, Frank Ricci Jr., has publicly countered that his bar can't control what happens out in the street.

For years, the popular Cincinnati district has been the scene of murders, shootings and fights as wells as neighbors' complaints about crime, noise and drunkenness.

The county's temporary restraining order is scheduled for a Dec. 8 hearing in 210th District Court. The current order expires Dec. 9 but the county could seek an extension.

A county attorney's office spokesman said that prosecutors are willing to work with owners to come up with ways to resolve crime issues related to their businesses without having to seek a permanent closure.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at 915-546-6102; dborunda@elpasotimes.com; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.

Military off-limits establishments list

  • Dreams Cabaret, 13299 Gateway West Blvd.
  • Jaguars Gentlemen's Club, 113477 Gateway West Blvd. 
  • Rockin’ Cigar Bar & Grill, 226 Cincinnati Ave.
  • Back Nine Bar and Lounge, 1441 N. Zaragoza Ave.
  • Cool Arrows, 800 N. Zaragoza Road.
  • Herb N Legends, 1920 N. Zaragoza Road. 
  • Best Food Mart, 6200 Dyer St. 
  • Bo-De-Gas Graff Head Shop, 1791 N. Zaragoza Road.

Members of the military at Fort Bliss, White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base are prohibited from entering or patronizing the listed businesses, which are deemed "detrimental to welfare of service members." Fort Bliss issued the list on March 26, 2021.