Vice and Violence

Deadly Incident in Doorway of Local Strip Club

by Ethan Stewart

Spearmint-Rhino.jpgA night of celebration for a local wedding party ended in tragedy last weekend, as a 26-year-old accountant from San Francisco died after an altercation in front of the Spearmint Rhino Adult Cabaret on Montecito Street. According to authorities, approximately 21 minutes passed between the time police received a call for help and the moment officers arrived on the scene.

By then, a shirtless David Klotz (pictured, inset) — who was in town for his high school buddy’s wedding — was lying motionless in front of the strip club, covered with his own vomit, two large bouncers still holding him facedown in the wood chips. Klotz allegedly had a weak pulse when paramedics arrived. But after repeated resuscitation attempts failed, he was taken off life support and pronounced dead a short time later at Cottage Hospital.

As of press time, no charges had been filed. Police spokesperson Lt. Paul McCaffrey explained the fatality was “not likely a criminal incident,” though the investigation is ongoing. To McCaffrey, the fact that the victim showed no immediate signs of being “roughed up” suggested that the bouncers had behaved with “reasonable force.”

35.jpgThe trouble started shortly before 3 a.m., Saturday morning, after Klotz ran up a $960 bill for a reported 70 minutes of one-on-one lap dances in a back room. According to eyewitness accounts (including that of this reporter, who was on the scene when police arrived), Klotz stood near the cash register and disputed the bill for some time with security personnel even though his credit card had already been charged at least $550. After he was repeatedly rebuffed in his offer to leave his cell phone as collateral while he went to an outside ATM machine so he could pay the remainder of his bill, Klotz eventually threw a punch at the bouncer. Standard-issue wrestling, involving mutual collar grabs, ensued, with a lamp kicked over and several customers and dancers forced out of the way. Within a matter of seconds, Klotz was rushed out the door by three bouncers gripping his 180-pound, 5 7 frame.

According to eyewitness Kyle Hembree, “The guy was struggling and kicking, just fighting back for a while. But then he went limp and they just stayed on him.” Several witnesses concur that two of the bouncers held Klotz to the ground using a combination of arm holds and a forearm “sleeper,” or choke hold, around his neck. Both bouncers — who police estimated were 6 3 and 240 pounds and 6 11 and 460 pounds — remained on top of Klotz until the police arrived. According to Klotz’s friend and local resident Vincent Lara, doctors told a group of people gathered in the hospital early Saturday morning that Klotz died after approximately 15-20 minutes of asphyxiation.

Though responding officers initially placed Klotz’s limp body in restraints, they quickly freed him, rolled him over, and attempted to revive him with smelling salts and a few shakes of his body. After determining that he was non-responsive, the officers opted not to perform CPR and radioed in a Code 3, which is the police equivalent of “all hands on deck.”

At this point, a group of about a dozen people, including Rhino management, had gathered around the scene. Several observers called for CPR to be administered, to which the officer closest to Klotz responded, “He has a light pulse. … Thank you for your concern.” Approximately 12 minutes later, paramedics arrived and immediately began performing CPR and other life-saving efforts. According to authorities, paramedics were able to detect and/or stimulate an occasional heartbeat on the way to the hospital, but after a neurological consult, Klotz’s parents opted to discontinue life support.

It was business as usual the next night at the Spearmint Rhino, with the doors open for patronage and the involved bouncers on the schedule for upcoming shifts. Calls placed to the Rhino’s regional headquarters in Los Angeles were not returned, and local staff were instructed not to comment. An autopsy performed early Tuesday showed that Klotz had a preexisting heart condition and a blood alcohol level of 0.19 at the time of his death. Additional toxicology tests are pending, but Klotz’s friends all insist that drug use was not a factor in the incident.

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