Basin nightclub hit with $3.5 million lawsuit
The wife, child and sister of a man who was shot and killed two years ago during a reggae concert at a Kimball Junction nightclub sued the establishment this month for more than $3.5 million.
The co-owners of Suede, Eric Oldham and Tara Cinelli, had not been served with the lawsuit this week. "We have been cleared of any issues so I have no idea what this would even be in reference to or where they think they’re going to get," Cinelli said Friday, adding that she hasn’t seen the lawsuit. "We’re not worried about it at all."
The complaint, filed in Silver Summit Third District Court Oct. 12, also names as a defendant, Finau Tukuafu, the man convicted last year of killing Kautoke Tangitau, 30, who died on the balcony at Suede after he was shot in the shoulder during a Lucky Dube concert Oct. 14, 2003.
"[Suede] created a hazardous condition by inviting customers to a concert venue and not providing a substantial body search that would allow a gun into the club," the lawsuit against Suede states.
Security at the club was so lacking that Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies were requested for reinforcement during the concert, the lawsuit claims. Roughly eight officers were reportedly on scene when the shooting occurred.
Tangitau was gunned down after he allegedly fought with several men during the show. Detectives never recovered the .22-caliber pistol used to kill the man at nearly point-blank range inside the club.
"Prior to [Tangitau] being shot various fights had broken out in the club," states the complaint, filed by Rhett Lunceford, an attorney in Murray. "[Suede] had a duty to protect concert goers by having enough crowd control personnel on hand to control concert goers."
Lunceford blames Suede’s employees for allowing the gun inside the club and filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tangitau’s wife, Olimpia Masi, his daughter Kesala and sister, Lupe Garcia.
"[Tangitau] was a kind, affectionate father constantly interested in the welfare of his wife, child and extended family," the lawsuit states.
But officers say the crowd at the club the night he was killed was rife with felons and gang members from Salt Lake, and the fight that precipitated Tangitau’s death was likely a scuffle between rival factions.
"There were a lot of gang members there our investigation proved that," Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said during an interview Friday. "Any time you’ve got that number of gang members/convicted felons in one place, there are probably going to be some violent acts that occur."
Suede managers say that around 600 people attended the concert, and since the debacle, deputies are required at the club when crowds exceed 500 people, Edmunds added.
"You can Monday-morning quarterback these types of things all day long. Very seldom is there an event that’s put on that couldn’t be improved," the sheriff said. "I can’t speak whether or not they had adequate security there. There were a lot more questions than answers"
A few days after the shooting, Oldham told The Park Record that ample security was available to pat down patrons and prohibit them from bringing large bags into Suede. "We went through all of our concert-security measures," he said.
But Tangitau died because of Oldham’s staff’s "reckless or negligent acts," and his family’s attorney wants a jury to decide whether the nightclub should pay, the lawsuit counters.
Lunceford wouldn’t comment when reached Thursday about the case. The suit was filed almost exactly two years after Tangitau was killed.
"There was a concern for the statute and wanting to preserve that," he said, hinting that the lawsuit could be "worked out."
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The Solomon Children’s Justice Center of Summit County has moved into its new home, a space officials hope will provide privacy and support to families experiencing trauma.