More than six months after David Klotz suffered fatal injuries outside the Spearmint Rhino Gentlemen’s Club, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office concluded its investigation last Wednesday, opting not to file any charges in the death. After reviewing videotape of the incident and taking into account several eyewitness testimonies as well as the findings of two separate-though occasionally conflicting-forensic pathology experts, the DA ruled that there was “insufficient basis in fact or law” to press charges against the two bouncers who forcibly removed the Bay Area accountant from the club and physically restrained him for some 21 minutes until police arrived. Though nothing is official yet, sources close to Klotz’s parents say the family is preparing to file a civil suit.
In town for a friend’s wedding, the 26-year-old Klotz tangled with bouncers at the strip club shortly after 3 a.m. last September 2. After disputing an approximate $1,000 tab he had run 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-so as to avoid the 10 percent surcharge the club assesses-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 onto the ground. Once outside, the bouncers-who police estimated were 6’3″ and 240 pounds, and 6’11″and 460 pounds-used their larger frames and a variety of holds to restrain the struggling 5’7″, 180-pound Klotz face down in a wood chip-lined 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.” An autopsy report several months 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.
According to the DA’s statement, responding officers detected a “weak” heart rate on the shirtless, limp Klotz. After initially handcuffing him, police 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 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 report states, “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. : 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.”
According to Assistant District Attorney Pat McKinley, the reason for the delay in his office’s ruling was the contradiction in findings between the initial autopsy report by county’s coroner, Dr. Robert Anthony, and a second, much 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. But he didn’t,” explained McKinley. Anthony’s report claimed that Klotz’s death was the result of a heart attack caused by a pre-existing heart condition known as severe atherosclerotic occlusion and not the result of strangleholds or any other type of physical restraint. In contrast, Dr. O’Halloran’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’Halloran concluded that, given Klotz’s abnormal heart, it could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that his cause of death was asphyxiation. Noting this contradiction, the DA’s office concluded 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.”