E2 Guard Testifies

A security guard who worked the night of the E2 Chicago nightclub disaster that left 21 dead opened testimony in the criminal trial January 17th with a graphic account of the events.

"I seen the doors blow open, the people got thrown through the air on top of the people coming up the stairs," the Chicago Tribune quoted Brad Hughes saying as he described what happened after a security guard used Mace to break up a fight at the club in February of 2003.

"The crowd kept pushing and pushing, and somebody stumbled. When they stumbled, that’s when the pile got bigger," Hughes said.

Hughes testified as the prosecution’s first witness in an attempt to show that club owner Calvin Hollins Jr., his son Calvin Hollins III, who managed the club, and promoter Marco Flores acted recklessly and led to the deaths, the Tribune said. The three are charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Hughes narrated a series of still photos captured on security video, the paper said. He described how people on their way up a 30-step stairway crashed into a larger mass of people trying to leave. He said most of the people on the stairwell ended up lying face down on the stairs with bodies on top of them.

"They couldn’t come through [the doorway]," the Tribune quoted him saying. "They were too tight. They pushed, and it got tighter and tighter. We couldn’t dislodge anybody else."

Defense attorneys reportedly said in their opening statements that some patrons thought terrorists had targeted the club.

Hughes said that after he and others, including Hollins Jr., pulled about 10 people from the bottom of the pile, they used an alternate stairwell to try to help those stuck at the top, the paper said.

They pulled about 40 bodies off the pile, he said.

"We pulled people out from the top landing to the second floor landing. When we got to the second landing [in the middle of the stairwell], that’s when we started pulling people out that were deceased," Hughes said.

He said he was notified of a fight before the stampede, and several women had been taken downstairs for medical assistance.

Raul Villalobos – the lawyer of Marco Flores, who promoted the party that night – questioned Hughes in cross-examination about Flores’ whereabouts that night. Villalobos said Flores wasn’t responsible for what happened partly because he left the club hours before the tragedy took place. Prosecutors agreed that Flores could be seen on the video leaving the club at 11:14 p.m.

Lamont Bullocks said he saw the fight break out and heard the DJ call out for someone to spray Mace on the troublemakers.

"The DJ’s saying they ain’t going to mess up his party, ‘Spray their [expletive],’" Bullocks said, according to the Tribune, adding that he was stuck under bodies for about an hour and a half.

Bullocks said as he attempted to leave the club, the crowd at the top of the stairs seemed "like a bunch of ants all crowded together." He said he managed to get down the stairs until he got about three steps from the exit.

"People were falling, people were trying to jump over people trying to get to the door," he said. "I just fell, and people fell on top of me, and I fell on people."