No Charges in Spearmint Rhino Death
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
By Ethan Stewart (Contact)
More than six months after David Klotz died outside the Spearmint Rhino Gentlemen’s Club, the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office concluded their investigation Wednesday—opting not to file any charges in the death. After reviewing video tape of the incident, several eye witness accounts and the findings of two separate though occasionally conflicting forensic pathology experts, the district attorney ruled that there was “insufficient basis in fact or law” to press charges against the two bouncers who forcibly removed the 26 year-old Klotz from the club and physically detained him for some 21 minutes until police arrived. Though nothing is official yet, sources close to the Klotz family state a civil case will be brought against the club in coming weeks.
An accountant from San Francisco, Klotz tangled with bouncers at the strip club shortly after 3 a.m. on September 2, 2006. After disputing an approximate $1,000 bill he had rung up while receiving more than an hour of private lap dances, Klotz, according to witness accounts, was attempting to leave the cub in order to use an ATM machine when the dispute turned physical. Punches were thrown and general chaos ensued with two bouncers eventually forcing Klotz out of the club and driving him down into the ground. Once outside, two bouncers—whom police estimated were respectively 240 pounds and 6’ 3” and 460 pounds and 6’11”—used their larger frames and a variety of holds to restrain the struggling 180 pound, 5’7” Klotz face down in a wood chipped area near the sidewalk. As witness Kyle Hembree later explained it, “The guy was struggling and kicking, just fighting back for a while. But then he went limp and they just stayed on him.” Autopsy reports later stated that Klotz had a blood alcohol level of .19 at the time of his death—more than twice the legal limit had he been driving. (For a more detailed description of events surrounding the night read ""Vice and Violence", the September 7 Independent story on the event.
According to the DA’s statement, responding officers detected a “weak” heart rate on Klotz shirtless, limp body and—after initially handcuffing him—attempted to revive him while waiting for an ambulance, though CPR was not initiated until paramedics were on the scene. Tests at Cottage Hospital indicated that Klotz’s brain activity had ceased and a short time later his parents, who had to travel from several hundred miles away to make the decision, opted to stop life support. Klotz was pronounced dead at 1:32 p.m. on the September 2.
Referencing the California Penal Code statute that governs involuntary manslaughter, the DA’s statement concluded that Klotz’s initial resistance—coupled with testimony and corroborating video that the bouncers never appeared to strike him or intentionally choke him—prevent the case from rising to the level of criminal negligence. Interpreting the legal standards of the use of force by security personnel, the DA’s statement says, “Like all private persons, security employees can arrest or detain an offender for a public offense…The person making the arrest may use reasonable force in arresting and detaining the arrestee. What is ‘reasonable force’ depends on the facts of the given incident.” David%20Klotz.jpgThe DA statement continues that “the law is also quite clear that the person being arrested has a duty to remain passive. Since the person being arrested has a duty not to resist the arrest, such resistance will affect the amount of force that will be considered reasonable.”
In the estimation of District Attorney Pat McKinley, the reason for the delay in his office’s ruling was the contraction in findings between the initial autopsy report by Dr. Robert Anthony and a second more thorough report by Dr. Ronald O’Halloran. “It would have been much easier if [O’Halloran] had said the same thing as the first guy,” explained McKinley. The first autopsy—performed by Anthony as he is the county’s go-to doctor for autopsies—claimed that Klotz’s death was the result of a heart attack caused by a pre-existing heart condition known as a severe atherosclerotic occlusion and not the result of strangle holds or any other type of physical restraint.
For his part Dr. O’Holloran’s five-inch thick report stated that Klotz’s “most likely” cause of death was “chest compression” related to the restraint process. That being said, O’Holloran concluded that, given Klotz’s abnormal heart, it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that his cause of death was asphyxiation. Noting this contradiction, the DA’ concludes its statement with the following explanation: “This conflict and uncertainty regarding the manner of death was deemed important in the decision regarding the filing of criminal charges.”