Guilty verdict in E2 nightclub stampede reversed

November 18, 2011

Susie An and Jennifer Brandel

(AP/Photo courtesy of the Chicago Police Department)
An unidentified Chicago police officer tries to drag people to safety at the E2 stampede in 2003.

The Illinois appellate court has tossed out guilty verdicts of two Chicago nightclub owners related to a fatal stampede.

Twenty-one people were crushed to death at the E2 nightclub after a fight broke out in 2003. Club security used pepper spray to break up the fight, and that sent people running to the building's second level.

Owners Dwain Kyles and Calvin Hollins were found guilty two years ago for violating a judge's order to shut down the second floor of the club before the night of the stampede.

But an appellate court Tuesday reversed that verdict saying the order was confusing and unclear. The order stated, "Mandatory order not to occupy 2nd floor."

The decision said the order appeared clear on first glance, but it needed more detailed information.

Victor Henderson is a lawyer for Dwain Kyles. When asked at Thursday's press conference who was to blame for the 2003 tragedy, Henderson pointed fingers at the city. 

"There hasn't been a complete investigation, so you really can't tell. What did the fire department do? What did they not do? What did the police department do? What did they not do?," Henderson asked. 

He cited video taken from outside the club on the night of the incident showing emergency officials standing outside the club, implying they were not going inside to rescue those trapped.

The city's law department says it's disappointed in the decision, saying the defendants violated a clear mandatory court order. The department will review the opinion before deciding whether to make an appeal.