Suspect, victim in bar shooting were in past relationship
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) - Less than 24 hours after a bartender was gunned down on the job, and police say his killer is behind bars.
29-year-old Phil Wells was killed when shots rang out inside The Garage on Monday morning. It happened just before 5:30 a.m.
A patron was grazed by a bullet, and Wells died at the popular gay establishment.
Sources now say the fatal crime was far from random because Wells knew the accused shooter quite well.
Wells and 50-year-old Tracy Kauffman have a history that goes back to Knoxville, Tennessee.
Wells had previously worked for Kauffman, who owned the XYZ bar there. Family and friends say a romantic relationship developed from there.
However, the victim's uncle says the two had a "falling out". He says Wells moved to Las Vegas to build a new life and to escape a jealous ex-boyfriend.
Those grieving Wells say they never expected he would be confronted by his past in such a violent way.
"You can't just come in and shoot someone in cold blood because they don't love you anymore. It just doesn't work that way," said Dave Martin, Wells' uncle and roommate.
Dave Martin says Wells never told him that Kauffman was coming to town. He believes the 50-year-old may have traveled to Las Vegas for the sole purpose of unleashing his rage.
"I was praying he'd get caught, and am also praying he gets what's coming to him," said Martin, who says he suspected Kauffman from the get-go.
On Monday night, mourners showed up to The Garage in droves to remember a friendly face and a dear friend.
"I just saw him Friday night, Saturday morning. I literally saw him 24 hours before this happened," explained friend Brandon Johnson. "He was the kindest person you could ever meet in Las Vegas."
Friends said everything seemed normal in Wells' life and he appeared to be doing well for himself. No one can understand what drove Kauffman to allegedly pull the trigger.
"I don't see how there's that evil on this planet," said friend Michael Sosa, who played on a softball team with Wells.
Police say the details of Kauffman's arrest will be announced on Tuesday.
A man claiming to be Kauffman's brother told Action News over the phone that his family members were in shock. He claimed that Kauffman's family hadn't heard about the shooting on Monday night.
According to jail records, Kauffman is being held at the Clark County Detention Center without bail. He faces charges of murder with a deadly weapon and burglary with use of a deadly weapon.
Kauffman's 48 hour hearing has been set for Wednesday.
The Garage will remained closed until noon on Tuesday.