Downtown club shooter has ties to Tijuana cartel, police say

San Diego police are searching for a man who fired gunshots into a downtown nightclub last month and multiple law enforcement sources said the shooter allegedly has ties to the Arellano Félix cartel, a Mexican drug cartel based in Tijuana.

The shooting occurred around 2 a.m. on Jan. 28 at Sidebar on Market Street and police have identified the suspect as 29-year-old Abel Gomez, who they said fired five to six gunshots before fleeing.

“He is wanted for assault with a deadly weapon,” said Capt. Mike Holden with the San Diego Police Department. “We have been unable to locate him.”

The man fired the rounds into the ground of the nightclub after a scuffle over a woman, witnesses said. Almost the entire incident was captured on surveillance video, according to police and a representative of the club.

Police said Gomez ran away but left shell casings from the gunfire.

A representative of Sidebar, located near Market and Sixth Avenue, said the nightclub was already closing up for the night when the shooting occurred. There were only a handful of people left in the business, the lights were on and the music had been turned off for the night, she said.

A witness said Gomez slapped a woman on the behind, and then another man then stepped in to stop Gomez from touching the woman or grabbing her again. That’s when Gomez pulled out a firearm and fired off the rounds, the person said.

Holden declined to release the suspect’s picture.

“We don’t think he’s a threat to the public,” Holden said.

Several people said it did not appear Gomez was trying to shoot anyone but rather scare away the last few remaining club patrons. Security guards stepped in to restrain Gomez, but when they called police, he managed to get away, the bar’s representative said.

One person said Gomez pointed the firearm at the crotch of a security guard.

“Several people were running outside and several people were outside the club when the call came into us,” Holden said.

The Arellano Félix cartel has been severely crippled since 2006 when it essentially lost a war with the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, now on trial in New York. Federal law enforcement officers on both sides of the border have been giving news conferences declaring the Arellano Félix cartel finished since 2002, but some believe it remains active.

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