The E2 nightclub stampede occurred on February 17, 2003, at the E2 nightclub located above the Epitome Chicago restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, in which 21 people died and more than 50 were injured when panic ensued from the use of pepper spray by security guards to break up a fight. The club's owners, Dwain Kyles and Calvin Hollins, were later convicted of criminal contempt for their persistent failure to keep the facility up to code, and sentenced to two years in prison.
The proximate cause of the stampede was club security using pepper spray to break up a fight. Several patrons close to the commotion experienced vomiting or fainting from the spray's noxious fumes. Coupled with panic from others unaware of the source of the smell, the crowd rushed towards the exits. According to witnesses, many believed the club had been hit with poison gas in a terrorist attack and someone said "I'll bet it's [Osama] bin Laden." The only known exit was the steep front stairwell leading to the main entrance on the ground floor, but its narrow doors opened inward, which was a fire code violation. Additionally, while the doors were normally kept open during business hours, they had been closed after the fight participants were ejected. Although at least one emergency exit was opened by a security guard, there were disputed reports of another chained shut.
As the evacuating crowd pushed open the doors, several people already climbing the stairs were knocked down and subsequently pinned by the ensuing crush. Security attempted to pull them to safety, but the pile rapidly reached six feet in height as a result of more than 1,500 simultaneously attempting to escape the chaos inside. Ira Navarro, a former E2 guard who had worked at trying to free trapped patrons, recalled to the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2007 that he had heard other clubbers atop the stairs laughing at the fracas, unaware of the fatalities stemming from the ground-floor pileup.
21 patrons - twelve women an...