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Chicago Cops Release Club Stampede Video

March 1, 2003

CHICAGO (AP) _ Police released video Friday from the nightclub stampede that killed 21 people, a horrifying frame-by-frame account showing panicked crowd members screaming and crushing each other in a desperate attempt to get out.

The halting, grainy footage _ captured on surveillance cameras at the E2 club and shown to the media for the first time _ shows police and firefighters grabbing arms in a vain attempt to pull victims from a mass of interlocked bodies that jammed the stairwell a few feet from the club’s open front door.

``All efforts to try and pull people out were unsuccessful because of the weight of the crowd,″ said Chief of Detectives Philip Cline. ``There’s actually people stacked up. It was about four people high.″

Authorities estimated several hundred people pushed into the stairwell early Feb. 17 after a guard used pepper spray to break up a fight on the dance floor. All the victims died there.

The graphic footage from four different cameras begins shortly after 2 a.m. It shows laughing, smiling people entering the club and going up the stairs to the second floor club. The footage has no sound, but Cline provided a detailed narrative as the footage played out on a large screen.

At about 2:15 a.m., a tight throng of people surges toward the opening at the top of the stairwell. Their faces are panicky, and many are clearly being pushed and squeezed.

At the same time, a separate camera shows the front door at the bottom of the stairwell open, and some people leaving. But the crowd at the top of the stairs is so tightly wedged together it seems to move as one unit.

One man is shown braced against a support beam in the crush with his mouth wide open, his arms in the air. He appears to be screaming. Others can be seen flailing, arms in the air.

By 2:19 a.m., nobody is getting out the front door. People at the bottom of the stairs can be seen looking up toward the crowd above.

By 2:20 a.m, bodies are shown twisted at odd angles in the crush at the top. A woman is passed over the top of the crowd. Another woman grabs a man’s shirt in an apparent effort to stay on her feet, but she disappears in the crowd.

At 2:29 a.m., a police sergeant goes in the front doorway to the stairwell and another officer follows. The sergeant gestures, seemingly imploring people higher on the stairs to back up.

The two police officers try to pull someone out, but they simply cannot do it because of the crush of people.

Police and firefighters began going up the back stairs to get into the nightclub from the rear. Cline said those officers noticed a strong odor of pepper spray at the top of the stairs.

By 2:43 a.m. the crowd at the top is clearing up a little, and at the bottom officers and others can be seen starting to pull a victim out.

``Now it’s untangling the bodies and getting them out of the stairwell,″ Cline said. ``They were standing, crosswise, legs in the air. It was just an entanglement of bodies.″

The footage was released after Judge Daniel Lynch lifted a protective order requested by lawyers for the city, who argued the tapes would be emotionally damaging for families of victims. Police also said they did not want witnesses viewing the tape before speaking with investigators.

``In a case of this nature that relates to the public’s health and safety, there is a paramount importance in the court’s mind on dissemination,″ the judge said.

Andre Grant, the attorney for nightclub owner Dwain Kyles, told the judge the tapes should be released so that the public could know what happened that night.

He said the tapes would show there were no locked or chained doors at the nightclub that night, and that there were far fewer than 1,500 people there, as some have charged.

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