CHICAGO — Twenty years ago this week, an unthinkable tragedy played out in the South Loop — the E2 nightclub stampede.
Twenty-one people were killed and dozens more were injured when a crush of people tried to escape the club at 2347 S. Michigan Ave. after security guards used pepper spray to break up a fight on the dance floor.
Panic spread among the hundreds of clubgoers as many feared they were the targets of a poison gas attack. They darted for the exit, located at the bottom of a narrow stairway that led out to Michigan Avenue.
Less than a year before the Feb. 17, 2003 disaster, a Cook County judge ordered the second-floor club closed because of building code violations. Prosecutors brought involuntary manslaughter charges against the club’s two owners, but they were ultimately cleared of those charges.
Instead, the owners were convicted of criminal contempt for violating the order to close the club. In 2015, the owners were sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service.
Dozens of wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits were filed in the wake of the stampede, leading to millions of dollars in settlement payments.
But now, two decades, one lawsuit tied to the disaster remains pending.
The suit was filed in federal court in 2018 by Mary and Howard Ray, the parents of 24-year-old DaShand Ray, who was killed in the stampede.
The Rays allege that, during the litigation of their initial wrongful death lawsuit, the city did not produce all the footage that was collected by surveillance cameras on the night of the stampede.
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“What we know at this point is that there is a witness that claims there are more, that there are more videotapes available, more than what was made in the state court litigation,” Eric Onyango, the attorney for the Rays, said in an interview with WGN. “So either, A, whoever kept the cameras was negligent in doing so, so it was intentional.”
A representative for the city’s Law Department declined to comment on the lawsuit, though, in court filings, city attorneys have denied that any tapes were withheld. The lawsuit is pending and still in the pleading phase. The next hearing has not yet been scheduled.