GLENDALE, Colo. (CBS4) – The Arapahoe County coroner has ruled that a 48-year-old father and business executive who died at Glendale strip club Shotgun Willie’s in May was the victim of a homicide, and his death was caused by a club employee apparently using a chokehold on the man then restraining him in a way that made it hard for Randall Wright to breathe.
“Unfortunately in this particular case he leaves behind two teenage boys grieving the loss of their father,” said Donald Sisson, an attorney for the family of Wright, who died after the May 2 scuffle at Shotgun Willie’s Show Club.
“According to the coroner’s report, it’s a homicide,” said Sisson.
Wright, a married father of two, met several friends at the strip club. According to witnesses and club video obtained by CBS4, Wright and another customer argued and then got into a fistfight. The video appears to show Wright throwing the first punch. The fracas moves from one part of the club to another before a bartender can be seen jumping on Wright and forcibly taking him down. Sisson says the bartender stayed on top of Wright for at least a minute and a half.
Wright was pronounced dead shortly after the incident.
In a seven page autopsy report obtained by CBS4, Arapahoe County coroner Dr. Kelly Lear ruled that Wright died of “Mechanical/restraint asphyxia. History of possible restraint and possible chokehold.” The coroner went on to write that “He was described as having been restrained prone on the floor, with a possible chokehold applied by an employee of the establishment, during which time he was unresponsive. Both the use of a chokehold as well as mechanical compression of the chest wall during restraint can lead to asphyxial death.”
The coroner also noted Wright suffered six broken ribs, which Sisson says were caused by the employee being on top of Wright.
The coroner also noted Wright suffered from heart disease.
“His history was significant for hypertension,” wrote Lear.
”His underlying cardiac disease is also contributory as a risk factor for sudden death during physical exertion and restraint,” said the coroner. Wright also had elevated levels of alcohol at the time of his death.
Debbie Matthews, one of the owners of Shotgun Willie’s, told CBS4 the homicide finding was “really horrible. That’s just dreadful.”
She said she was not aware of the coroner’s ruling until contacted by CBS4.
“I’m shocked, it’s shocking,” said Matthews.
Matthews said she did not have the information to answer other questions about the bartender, or his current employment status with the club.
Chokeholds have been controversial for years and are banned by many police departments. In 2016, Colorado enacted a new law restricting police use of chokeholds and only allowing law enforcement officers to use them in extreme cases.
The Arapahoe County district attorney has been investigating the Wright death to see if criminal charges are appropriate. Vikki Migoya, a spokesperson for the office, said District Attorney George Brauchler has not made a final decision.
Sisson told CBS4 Wright’s family intends to file a lawsuit against the nightclub and the bartender in coming weeks.