With a trial in the contentious case 11 weeks away, a defendant in the Shotgun Willie’s death lawsuit is casting blame on new alleged culprits: Glendale’s police and police chief.
An attorney for John Liprando, who stands accused in a civil lawsuit of playing a role in the death of his friend Randall Wright at the strip club on May 2, 2019, wrote Monday that the small enclave’s police department and police chief “may be at fault.”
“The Glendale Police Department assumed the role of advising Shotgun Willie’s management, owners and staff on security protocols, including specifically advising them not to train employees on proper use-of-force techniques,” attorney Ryan Nichols wrote.
Nichols claims the police department told the strip club that it “would respond to incidents within 30 seconds” and by doing so, “assumed the role of security for Shotgun Willie’s.”
“On the night of the incident, the Glendale Police Department failed to fulfill its reassurances of a 30-second response time and failed to fulfill its security role,” he wrote.
Wright, a 48-year-old Kroger executive, was with Liprando and another friend when they got into an altercation with Ibrahim Mazgaldzhiev, then 27, that led Wright to chase the younger man through the club until Wright was tackled by bartender Derek Hendricks. Wright’s family sued Hendricks and the club in 2019, claiming Hendricks used a chokehold; he denies that.
“Mr. Hendricks likely would not have felt compelled to intervene in the altercation” if Glendale police had arrived within 30 seconds, according to Nichols.
“Further, had the Glendale PD advised Shotgun Willie’s to secure proper use-of-force training for its staff, any intervention by Mr. Hendricks … would have been done in accordance with appropriate and accepted use-of-force techniques” and not killed Wright, Nichols wrote.
Steve Long, an attorney for the club’s parent company, said Shotgun Willie’s staff undergo considerable training, at an expense of $4,000-$5,000 per employee, that teaches them to deescalate tense situations and break up combatants in the rare instance of a fight.
Nichols claims three people or departments who are not parties in the lawsuit may bear responsibility: Mazgaldzhiev, the Glendale Police Department and Police Chief Joe Haskins, who has “multiple familial connections to Shotgun Willie’s.” Haskins is blamed for not arriving in 30 seconds and allegedly advising the club to not train employees on use of force.
Haskins and the department he leads did not respond to requests for comment about Nichols’ claims. Nichols and another Liprando attorney did not respond to requests for specifics about the police chief’s supposed family connections to the strip club.
In April, Haskins wrote a six-page expert witness report at the request of the strip club’s attorneys. His report noted that Glendale police recommend Shotgun Willie’s staff call 911 rather than use force, except in cases of great bodily harm.
“The potential to injure someone while restraining, performing a takedown, or other shows of force that exist for trained police officers is even greater for non-police security,” he wrote.
“It is extremely cost-prohibitive to provide use-of-force training to security staff,” his report states. “In fact, many businesses in the nightlife industry do not train their staff in how to use force because of the risks and financial impact on the business.”
Haskins’ report found that Hendricks’ actions on the night of Wright’s death “were completely proper” and “consistent with the directions from our department.”
“Security staff avoided a hands-on approach for as long as they possibly could have before the altercation escalated into the type of violence that would not be mitigated by police and professional pleas to Mr. Wright to leave the establishment,” the report states.
Earlier this month, attorneys for the Wright family and Liprando asked Arapahoe County District Court Judge Peter Michaelson to prohibit Haskins’ findings from being heard by a jury because they are “nothing more than lay opinions that Chief Haskins has no more expertise to give than the average juror.” Michaelson has not yet ruled on the request.
An eight-day trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 7, more than three years after Wright’s widow and children sued the strip club and Hendricks. They seek an undetermined amount of money.
As the case has moved ahead, defendants have tried to shift blame to others they say are partly responsible. Liprando, a real estate broker with SullivanHayes, wasn’t initially a defendant in the case but was added as a so-called third-party defendant by Hendricks, who convinced Michaelson in May that Liprando may also bear responsibility.
In September 2019, the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office declined to charge Hendricks because it decided there was insufficient evidence a crime had occurred.