By Christine Vendel The Kansas City Star
Witnesses at Arrowhead Stadium saw a tailgater pummel a man who had apparently climbed into the wrong vehicle on Sunday, according to new details obtained by the Kansas City Star on Wednesday.
After the beating, the tailgater and his friends went back to their vehicles to continue watching the Chiefs’ game on a television. But when a bystander noticed the man was no longer breathing and summoned police, the tailgater fled the stadium, according to court records released Wednesday.
The 24-year-old tailgater went to his Independence home and changed clothes. Police on Monday morning arrested the tailgater at his home, then searched it and recovered the clothing, which included a No. 25 Jamaal Charles jersey, blue jeans and tennis shoes.
In the affidavit filed for the search warrant, police said they were looking for clothing and trace evidence, including “blood, hair, fibers and other microscopic evidence of a homicide.”
The death of Kyle Van Winkle, 30, of Smithville, has been deemed a homicide, police said Wednesday. He was found in the parking lot with blood coming from his nose or mouth, according to court records related to the search warrant. His death marked the 100th homicide of the year, the same number logged on the same date last year.
The medical examiner’s office did not provide a cause of death, but told police that the manner of death would be ruled homicide, meaning the death was caused by the hands of another. Such a ruling does not necessarily mean murder charges will be filed. Homicides can be justified, considered self-defense or charged as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
Police are still investigating. When they are finished, they will present their findings to prosecutors, who will decide whether to file criminal charges.
Van Winkle, who was attending the game with his father and a group of friends and relatives, told his father he was going to the restroom in the first quarter of the game against the Denver Broncos. But he never returned to his seat.
Instead, he walked into the parking lot for unknown reasons and got into an apparently unlocked green Jeep that was similar to a vehicle in his tailgating convoy. The Jeep was parked in the same row where his group had parked earlier, but about 10 vehicles closer to the stadium.
When the Jeep owner returned to the vehicle and found Van Winkle sleeping inside, the owner pulled him out, police said. As the owner was chasing Van Winkle around the Jeep, the owner’s 10-year-old son summoned help from a group of people who were watching the game on television in the parking lot.
The bystanders believed Van Winkle had broken into the Jeep, but police said there was no evidence of a break-in.
The bystanders confronted Van Winkle, police said. One bystander then punched Van Winkle in the face, quickly knocking him out. Witnesses said the bystander continued to punch Van Winkle, then walked away, leaving him on the asphalt. Someone propped him up against a bus, police said.
The bystanders went back to their tailgate party and the vehicle owner and his son left the area. Later, someone noticed Van Winkle was turning blue, police told The Star. A woman flagged down security officers about 5:40 p.m. and other bystanders started cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
An ambulance took Van Winkle to a hospital, where he died. He and his wife had a 7-week-old baby. He worked at CommunityAmerica Credit Union.
Police eventually arrested four “persons of interest” in the case. Officers arrested three of them at the scene. They did not flee and they cooperated with detectives.
Police arrested their friend, who is believed to be the one who punched Van Winkle, at his home in the 400 block of North Ponca Drive in Independence during the search warrant Monday. He declined to talk to detectives. Police released all four men after 24 hours in jail, pending further investigation.
Detectives are looking for any witnesses who have not yet talked to police, especially anyone who videotaped any part of the incident. Anyone with information should call the homicide unit at 816-234-5043.
An attorney representing the 24-year-old tailgater said his client did not want to comment. The Star is not naming the client because he has not been charged. Garry Helm, an attorney and part-time city judge in Independence, noted that his client has a full-time job and no criminal record.
“My client’s really remorseful,” he said. “It was just a misunderstanding of the whole situation … There are two sides to every story and the truth is usually somewhere in between.”
Helm said the Jeep owner initially thanked his client for his help in the parking lot. A witness told police she overheard the Jeep owner saying that he was glad other people were there for him.
“The next thing you know, he’s spending the night in jail and it’s being called a homicide,” Helm said of his client. “I think it may be a hasty decision to rule it a homcide without all the medical evidence and toxicology results.”
Police have said toxicology results could take up to six weeks.