Saturday night, police were called to Pacers Showgirls International just after midnight after one of the guests caused a disturbance.
“The person was hitting others when he was taken under control and taken to the parking lot,” said San Diego police Lt. Mike Hastings.
When officers arrived, they found 37-year-old Joseph Charles Thomas unconscious. He was taken to a local hospital, but he died about an hour later.
Preliminary reports indicated that a security guard at the club may have used an improper choke hold to subdue Thomas, but investigators would not confirm the reports.
“I don’t believe we can prove anybody killed him at this point,” said Lt. Hastings. “That’s for the investigation to rule down the road.”
Fox 5 reached out to owners and managers of Pacers, but all declined any comment.
“We’re dealing with a clientele that has been consuming alcohol or other drugs,” said Robert Smith of Nightclub Security Consultants.
Smith is CEO and president of the company. He is also a former San Diego police officer. NSC trains bouncers, however, Pacers Showgirls International is not his client.
“California was the first state to mandate job specific training for these types of guards,” said Smith.
He said not only must the guards be licensed under state law, but there are specific rules of engagement.
“If someone is fighting you, you can defend yourself. There’s no problem with a guard using a level of force, but force must be reasonable,” said Smith.
It’s up to police to determine what is reasonable, Smith said. In the case of what happened at Pacers, homicide detectives are investigating.
Reina Campuzano owns the tailoring business next door.
“[Club customers] drink so much, they go outside and they don’t know what they’re doing,” she said.
Campuzano said fighting is a problem at the club, and the bouncers are only doing their jobs.
“The bouncers are very nice people. They don’t hurt you. They just tell you go outside,” said Campuzano. “I’ve never seen them hitting anybody.”
The cause of death will be determined by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, Hastings said.