GLENDALE, Colo. (CBS4) – CBS4 has learned there will be no criminal charges filed in connection with the death of a 48-year-old father and business executive who died in May after a physical altercation at Shotgun Willie’s, a Glendale strip club. The Arapahoe County coroner previously ruled Randall Wright’s manner of death was homicide, with the coroner saying his death was caused by a club employee apparently using a choke hold on Wright, then restraining him in a way that made it hard to breathe.
In a letter sent Friday to the Glendale Police Department, Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Dawson wrote he would not be filing charges because “the evidence at this time is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the potential suspect is guilty of a crime.” A spokesperson for the D.A.’s office said there would not be any comment beyond the three paragraph letter which said there were “significant conflicts in witness statements as to what transpired, the medical evidence and findings/opinions of the Arapahoe County Coroner…”
Wright’s family released a written statement to CBS4 saying they were unhappy with the prosecutor’s decision.
“The Wright Family is deeply disappointed as we believe there was ample evidence to support criminal charges,” wrote their attorney Donald Sisson. “We look forward to obtaining justice in the civil case.”
“This is a terrible tragedy that someone died,” said Harvey Steinberg, an attorney representing the club. “But the club is not responsible. No choke hold was ever applied. We anticipated and expected that the D.A.’s office would come to the same conclusion; that the club was not responsible for this tragedy”.
The scuffle at the club occurred May 2. Wright, a married father of two, met some friends at the strip club. According to witnesses and club video obtained by CBS4, Wright and another patron argued and then got into a physical fight. At one point, a bartender can be seen jumping on Wright and forcibly taking him down.
Wright was pronounced dead shortly after the incident.
In a seven page autopsy report, Arapahoe County coroner Dr. Kelly Lear ruled Wright died of “Mechanical/restraint asphyxia. History of possible restraint and possible choke hold.” The coroner went on to write, “He was described as having been restrained prone on the floor, with a possible choke hold applied by an employee of the establishment, during which time he was unresponsive. But the use of a choke hold as well as mechanical compression of the chest wall during restraint can lead to asphyxial death.”
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”.
In his one page letter, Dawson noted Wright’s medical issues were a factor in the decision. The Chief Deputy D.A. also said he anticipated a potential legal defense of self-defense. The prosecutor said if police come up with any new leads or evidence, the D.A. would reconsider the case.
Choke holds have been controversial for years and are banned by many police departments. In 2016, Colorado enacted a new law restricting police use of choke holds and only allowing law enforcement officers to use them in extreme cases.
Sisson, the attorney for the Wright family, said the family intends to file a lawsuit against the club and the bartender.