Up to 12 people, including local bouncers, could face criminal charges in the death of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) following a fight in San Diego's iconic Gaslamp Quarter, a San Diego Police Homicide Lieutenant said.
Conner Kepple, 21, was involved in a 'violent confrontation' at a bar near E Street and Fourth in the Gaslamp Quarter on March 5, five days before his death.
He did not immediately seek medical attention. However, in the days after the fight, he went to the hospital three times.
According to the medical examiner’s investigative report unsealed Saturday, Kepple visited Sharp Grossmont Hospital on March 6 with pain to his left thigh. Medical staff released him with pain and anti-inflammatory medication.
Kepple went to Sharp Grossmont Hospital the following day “with complaints of worsening pain and onset of nausea and headache. Medics treated and released Kepple with ‘possible compartment syndrome.’”
The next morning on March 8, physicians asked him to return to the hospital. When Kepple arrived at the hospital, physicians say he was septic and required intubation. They diagnosed him with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare flesh –eating disease, and he “underwent massive debridement of the left thigh, flank and abdomen.”
The ME report says Kepple’s condition continued to deteriorate and his family ultimately “elected to withdraw care.” Kepple died March 10, on his 21st birthday.
The Medical Examiner's office ruled his death a homicide due to “complications of blunt force trauma.”
SDPD Homicide Lt. Manny Del Toro said his unit had considered homicide an option all along, and have now turned the case over to the District Attorney's office to evaluate for potential criminal liability.
"It wasn't a clear cut case for us. No arrests have been made," Toro told NBC 7 San Diego. "That's why we sought the assistance of the district attorney's office to help us sort this out as far as criminal liability in this case."
Toro said detectives have identified up to 12 people who were hands-on with Kepple between the night of March 4 into the morning of March 5. They can now link that night with his untimely death on the 10th, with the help of the ME's office, Toro said.
During their investigation, authorities have interviewed witnesses, reviewed surveillance video, and more.
Toro said one or possibly all 12 of the individuals the department has identified as hands-on with Kepple could potentially face criminal charges. At least one of the suspects are local bouncers in the area, Toro said. As of Monday, Toro said they do not know which suspects will be charged.
"As far as some of the egregious acts that occurred, we have identified individuals who we believe intended to hurt Mr. Kepple that evening," Toro said.
The challenge investigators faced when looking into Kepple's death was the space of time between his injury and death, Toro said.
"The challenge initially was that the death occurred on the 10th, which is when the homicide unit inherited the case," Toro said. "So we had to trace anything back to basically anything that happened potentially between March 5th and the 10th, which potentially could have killed him, if there was such an incident...But then again, we also had the challenge of, was it an incident that occurred inside a business out on the sidewalk, and when did it occur?"
Kepple worked for MaxCare ambulance as an EMT. He is survived by his parents, an older brother and a younger sister.