Nightclub owner pleads innocent to charges

Saturday, February 22, 2003

CHICAGO -- The owner of a nightclub where 21 people died in a stampede this week pleaded innocent on Friday to criminal contempt charges, city officials said.

E2 owner Dwain Kyles is accused of defying a court order to stop using the second floor of the nightclub building.

Kyles appeared in Housing Court to answer charges brought by the city of Chicago, which wants a judge to find Kyles in criminal contempt and put him in jail for at least a year, said Jennifer Hoyle, spokeswoman for the city law department.

City attorneys said Kyles did not follow a court order from last summer that barred the use of the second floor of the nightclub building due to housing code violations. Kyles' attorneys claim the judge's order pertained to only one section of the nightclub.

Kyles appeared before Circuit Judge Daniel Lynch and was released on an individual recognizance bond, Hoyle said. Lynch did not rule on the charge, and the next court date on the matter was set for Feb. 28, she said.

Meanwhile, Chicago started burying the victims from Monday's deadly pre-dawn nightclub stampede, with at least five funerals held throughout the city Friday.

More funerals are scheduled in the next few days for the men and women who died at the nightclub.

On the city's West Side, people remembered 24-year-old Damien Riley as a great friend who was always ready with a joke and willing to help others.

"He brought a wonderful inspiration to people that could not see their way," said his uncle, the Rev. Ray Hicks of Abundance Universal Christian Center who presided over Riley's funeral.

A panic started at the nightclub early Monday when a security guard used pepper spray to break up a fight. Patrons bolted down a narrow stairway, and bodies were trampled and flattened before the victims could escape out a first-floor exit. More than 50 people were injured.

Riley and two of his friends, Michael Wilson and Maurice Robinson, both 22, died in the crush. Members of Wilson's family were among more than 500 mourners who gathered at the United Baptist Church for Riley's funeral.

Marcus Gandy, 21, of Chicago, was with Riley at the nightclub but escaped before people jammed the stairwell. He said he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Riley when Riley was brought out of the club.

"I just think it's terrible. I don't understand why somebody's got to die so young," said Gandy, one of several mourners who wore a memorial T-shirt to honor his friends.

Many of the young people at the funeral wore white T-shirts with the words, "The Good Die Young" or "In Loving Memory" written above pictures of Wilson, Robinson and Riley.

"I just wanted something to represent them," Gandy said.

Family and friends streamed into the church to pay their respects to Riley. Many cried and hugged Riley's mother, Linda Hooker, and one woman was so overcome with grief that she collapsed in a pew.

Mourners remembered Riley as a man who loved to play basketball and hoped one day to start a line of gym shoes called "Air Rileys."

His grandmother, Mae White, said Riley helped others even at the end of his life. She said he gave up a chance to leave the packed dance club early Monday so a woman could leave instead.

"He was just a wonderful child. You can look at the crowd and tell," she said, scanning the packed church. "He was respectful to everybody."

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