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Police: Gunman shot, killed by employee in Salt Lake club

Bartender describes moments before shooting, efforts to save gunman’s life

Police investigate after a man began firing a gun overnight at Echo Nightclub, 134 W. Pierpont Ave. in Salt Lake City, and was then shot and killed by an employee who had a gun on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020.
Police investigate after a man began firing a gun overnight at Echo Nightclub, 134 W. Pierpont Ave. in Salt Lake City, and was then shot and killed by an employee who had a gun on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020.
Ray Boone, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A man who police say got a gun and opened fire in a bar overnight was shot and killed by a bar employee.

About 1:30 a.m., one of the patrons at Echo Nightclub, 134 W. Pierpont Ave., “decided to go out, get a gun, and started shooting it throughout the club. At one point, another person that was there, an employee who had his own gun, saw it and shot him,” said Salt Lake Police Lt. Brett Olsen.

No one else was injured, Olsen said. The gunman was identified by police Saturday as Gustav Denecamp, 27.

Denecamp received one gunshot wound before he stumbled outside, Olsen said. Officers outside tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic events that happened at our club Friday night,” nightclub owners said in a statement issued Saturday. “Thanks to the quick actions by an employee to stop the shooter, our patrons and staff were unharmed. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement to aid in their investigation and will continue our efforts to the best of our abilities to maintain a safe environment for our customers and staff.”

Detectives Saturday morning were still investigating what led up to the shooting.

Aaron Watts, head bartender at the nightclub, told the Deseret News that bar staff had removed Denecamp from the club earlier in the night for fighting, and somehow he snuck back in, went to the middle of the dance floor, and “fired off a couple of rounds” into the ceiling of the bar “to make it a spectacle, it seemed like.”

“I don’t know if his initial intent was to harm people,” said Watts, who speculated it may have been because he was upset for being kicked out of the bar. But as staff and bar patrons tried to get him under control, Watts said Denecamp began pointing his gun at people.

“(He) made a lot of people feel unsafe, made people feel threatened,” Watts said.

That’s when Watts said he told the bar guard, “Hey man, you’ve got to shoot him before he hurts anyone.”

But two men were too close to make it a clear shot, Watts said, “So I went up and tried to distract the guy (and) told the guys to get away.”

“He turned around and pointed the gun at me, and that’s when (the guard) ... he was patient with it, and placed it, aimed for his shoulder, and just got him right in the shoulder,” Watts said. “The dude even walked a little bit, turned around, acted fine, like kind of realized he shouldn’t have had his gun ... made it past the door, walked another couple of feet, then kind of rolled over and fell right there.”

Watts said a man with military medical training who had been hanging out in the club began administering medical aid.

When officers arrived, the man continued to give Denecamp “mouth-to-mouth when police said they couldn’t because of COVID-19,” Watts said. While he helped, police administered chest compressions.

The scene got even more chaotic when police arrived. While officers were trying to clear the area, some people didn’t obey orders, saying they wanted to help, Watts said.

Olsen said some bystanders “interfered with the police and even assaulted an officer at one point, so they were taken to jail on a separate incident.”

“People were a little bit amped up,” Olsen said.

When police began clearing the crowd around the victim to give him medical attention, one man — a different man than the bystander who helped administer CPR, according to Watts — began yelling he was a medic and started pushing his way through police, according to Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking.

It appeared the man was intoxicated as he was “slurring his speech,” Wilking said.

As one officer attempted to push the man back, the man slapped the officer, according to a jail booking statement. The man was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of assault on a police officer and interfering with a public servant.

“It was a chaotic scene,” Wilking said, adding that the situation devolved into a “pushing match” as emotions ran high.

Another man was arrested and booked into jail for investigation of interfering with an officer after “physically pulling on an officer’s arm” while the other man was being arrested, according to a booking statement.

Watts said the situation was unfortunate, but was handled as best as bar staff could to protect themselves and patrons.

“I don’t think we could have handled it any differently because every life is valuable,” Watts said. “Unfortunately even his life, we tried our best as a staff and as people.”

“You never know what someone’s going to do. You never know when someone’s going to make a mistake — have a mental snap, you know?” Watts added.

Contributing: Garna Mejia