Deaths Jeopardize Future Grateful Dead Shows
The future of Grateful Dead concerts at the Forum is in limbo this week as representatives of the city, the Inglewood arena and the rock band hold discussions about last month’s concert during which a Fountain Valley teen-ager died in police custody and another fan died from injuries believed to be drug related.
The Grateful Dead have a city permit to perform Feb. 9, 10 and 11 at the Forum, but the group has not yet signed a contract for the performance and it remains in doubt, Forum spokesman Bob Steiner said. The events in Inglewood occurred during a troubled year for the rock band, which encountered police problems at concert halls from New Jersey to Denver to Irvine.
More than two dozen Grateful Dead fans who say they witnessed the arrest of Patrick Shanahan, 19, at the Dec. 10 Inglewood concert have contacted the family’s lawyer after seeing flyers distributed at a series of Dead concerts in Oakland last week.
Lawrence Trygstad, a Los Angeles lawyer retained by the family to investigate the college student’s death, said witnesses contacted him “from San Francisco, Oakland, Colorado, New Jersey, all over the place” and generally described the police behavior that night as “very aggressive and brutal.”
The callers were responding to a flyer created by a 45-year-old Redondo Beach resident who knew Shanahan only from the numerous Grateful Dead concerts he saw him at over the past two years, Trygstad said.
“We’re like a tightknit family,” said the man, who has attended nearly 400 concerts over 17 years. “It’s part of the magic. Pat (Shanahan) was a real easygoing, mellow, warm person. I talked to him for about five minutes before the concert, gave him a hug and off he went. That’s the last I saw of him.”
The man, who identified himself only as Alan, said he distributed 8,000 flyers at the Oakland concert detailing Shanahan’s arrest and death.
Trygstad said he will give the names of the witnesses to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which is investigating police conduct during the arrest. The police are conducting their own internal investigation and said Shanahan was held in a chokehold after resisting arrest. An autopsy disclosed that Shanahan died from neck injuries suffered as he struggled with officers; it listed multiple injuries and LSD intoxication as contributing causes.
Police disputed that the officers used excessive force.
A police spokesman raised the possibility that witnesses who accused police of beating Shanahan with night sticks may have been watching another arrest unfold.
Police made 24 arrests, most of them drug related, during the three-day concert.
“You’ve got several hundred people on hallucinogenic drugs at the same time,” Sgt. Harold Moret said. “There are all kinds of bizarre things happening. People are running around naked. There are four or five incidents happening at one time. Officers are running from one wrestling match to another wrestling match.
“In these wild fights, the officers were using whatever force was necessary with these guys that were blasted out of their minds on hallucinogenic drugs.”
Police still have not identified a second man who died during the weekend concert series at the Forum. A man in his 30s apparently fell and broke his neck while climbing over a barbed-wire fence a few blocks from the Forum after the Saturday night concert, authorities said. The man, who was naked and believed to have been on drugs, was discovered early Dec. 10, authorities said.
“He had no clothes and no ID,” said Battalion Chief Ken Mays of the Inglewood Fire Department. “We don’t know who he is.”
The troubled time for the band, which tours throughout the year, included at least one other death and hundreds of arrests outside of concerts.
Law enforcement agencies offered these accounts of 1989 Grateful Dead shows in their cities:
* Fifty-five arrests at an April concert in Pittsburgh.
* The unexplained death of a college student after an October concert in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey.
* Seventy arrests, vandalism and a confrontation at an April concert in Irvine that prompted the police to call in reinforcements from surrounding agencies.
Dennis McNally, the Grateful Dead’s publicist, called the death of any of the band’s supporters, “A tragedy and a death in the family.” McNally attributed some of the problems at Grateful Dead concerts this year to an overreaction by authorities.
“Large numbers of oddly dressed kids are enough to make people nervous,” McNally said Thursday. “The vast, vast majority are pleasant and peaceful people.”
In interviews, longtime fans of the ‘60s rock group blamed the band’s new young disciples for the crowds of ticket-seekers and the death of the mellow mood that once marked the Dead’s concerts.
“It used to be a bunch of peace activists and old hippies,” said “Captain Ed,” the owner of a Dead paraphernalia shop in the San Fernando Valley that bears his name. “The new albums have made the band more popular and attracted younger people. The general population is coming in. The Dead are becoming a top-10-type group.”
Another Dead fan said, “They aren’t our private little minstrels anymore.”
Moret said police investigators are looking at other concerts nationwide to determine the “normal rate of death at Grateful Dead concerts.”
Inglewood City Councilman Jose Fernandez said banning the Dead from the Forum “remains a viable option that must be looked at very closely.” But neither he nor other officials openly called for a ban on the Dead in Inglewood.
“It is unacceptable to have that kind of drug dealing and usage in public,” Fernandez said. “I will not tolerate it.”
Forum General Manager Claire Rothman, Police Chief Raymond Johnson, City Manager Paul Eckles and a Grateful Dead representative have been discussing the “advisability of the Grateful Dead playing here or not playing here,” Steiner said.