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Salt Lake County man killed at nightclub

Fights broke out at concert before the sound of gunshots

Kautoke Tangitau
Kautoke Tangitau

A concert by South African reggae artist Lucky Dube was cut short Tuesday when a Salt Lake County man was shot and killed at a nightclub in Summit County.

Summit County sheriff's deputies were already mopping up a fight at Club Suede in Kimball Junction when the shooting occurred about 10:45 p.m., Sheriff Dave Edmunds said.

The deputies didn't hear the shots, but a club patron sought them out and alerted them to an injured man in the club balcony, the sheriff added.

Upstairs, deputies found Kautoke Tangitau dead from an apparent gunshot wound to his chest, Edmunds said. Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the man.

Edmunds characterized the incident as a "gang shooting" involving Polynesian gangs from the Salt Lake Valley. Officers from the Salt Lake Metro Gang Project were called to assist Summit County deputies, and they were able to identify some of the crowd, Edmunds said.

Court records show that Tangitau, 30, was arrested in Salt Lake City in July 2002 and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of purchase/possession of a dangerous weapon, obstruction of justice, assault on a police officer and carrying a concealed/dangerous weapon. He spent about eight hours in the county jail before posting bail, Salt Lake County sheriff's office spokeswoman Peggy Faulkner said.

Tangitau was charged with the two felonies and two misdemeanors in 3rd District Court in March 2003, but he failed to appear in court. There was an active bench warrant for his arrest at the time of his death.

Summit County had made no arrests in the shooting by press time Wednesday, although Edmunds said they were following several leads.

Management at Club Suede did not respond to phone messages left by the Deseret Morning News Wednesday.

The shooting death comes at a time when nightclub security is being scrutinized nationwide.

In late February, 85 people were killed at a club in West Warwick, R.I. The '80s rock band Great White had just started playing when a fire started from pyrotechnics on stage.

A week before the Rhode Island incident, 21 people were killed in a stampede at a Chicago club. Someone used sprayed pepper and people were crushed trying to get out.

In Utah the last time a concert audience turned violent was in 1991, when three people were killed and others injured at an AC/DC concert at the Salt Palace when the crowd pressed toward the band and crushed people standing in front of the stage.

Tuesday night at Club Suede there also "was a lot of pushing and shoving," said Heidi Sorenson, who attended the concert with her daughter Jasmine Sorenson. Heidi Sorenson said she had a good spot near the stage when the concert started. But she was pushed away by larger men who wanted to get close to Lucky Dube and his band of three musicians and three female backup singers.

The tiny club was packed and security was lax, the mother and daughter said. The pushing began almost immediately.

"Beer got thrown on Lucky Dube. He started moving back on the stage, further and further," Jasmine Sorenson said.

Three men helped themselves onto the stage, Heidi Sorenson said, before club security "took them off but didn't take them out of the club."

Jasmine Sorenson was standing in the middle of the club when a fight broke out.

Heidi Sorenson said there was another fight shortly before the gunfire. Not everybody inside the club heard the shots because they were fired on the balcony. In the middle of a song, the music stopped, and concertgoers were instructed to leave the club.

Edmunds said the county has been called to the club on fight problems before, but the situations have been "nothing out of the ordinary."