An Argus security guard stood by and watched two men attack 26-year-old Air Force veteran Joey Oertli as he was walking to his car after the Winter on the Rocks concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on January 26, 2018.
That’s according to a lawsuit filed by Oertli's father, attorney Richard Oertli, in Denver District Court. The complaint is against Argus Event Staffing, which provides security at the venue, and names two men as the perpetrators of the assault: Matthew Baier, who was not criminally charged in the case, and Clay Rainbolt, who has been charged with second-degree assault and whose criminal case is still making its way through court.
“I was with my brother and my friend,” recalls Joey Oertli. Baier "came back behind me and swatted me in the back of the head, and it knocked my hood off and my cap off. The guy was running away from me and dancing all funny. I said, ‘Hey, man, why did you do that?’"
After that, Rainbolt "came up from behind me and said, ‘My friend wouldn’t do that' and shoved my face in the concrete,’” Joey continues. “My friend started helping me up, and the guy who had just driven my face into the concrete was going, ‘I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have done that.’”
According to the lawsuit, the Argus security guard said she witnessed the attacks, and while she neither attempted to prevent them nor chased down the perpetrator, she did radio for help.
“Seeing that no Argus employees were taking any action, one of Joey Oertili’s companions, his younger brother, put himself at risk, and gave chase and caught up with Clay Rainbolt a long way down the hill at about the same time a policeman in an unmarked car apprehended Clay Rainbolt,” according to the suit.
In the meantime, Joey was “bleeding profusely” and treated by an EMT shortly after the second attack.
He was taken to the emergency room at St. Anthony Hospital, where he learned he had a concussion, received stitches above his left eyebrow and was told there would be permanent scars.
“When Joey Oertli’s mother arrived at the ER and saw her son’s face, she started shaking violently and went into a seizure. She was admitted to the hospital,” according to the suit.
Since the attack, Joey has suffered from poor vision, headaches, migraines and anxiety; memories of the attack aggravated the post-traumatic stress disorder he had been diagnosed with after serving in the military in the Middle East.
Richard attempted to settle the matter with Argus and the City and County of Denver outside the courts, but “Argus has been stone-faced,” he says.
In weighing who to name in the suit, he picked the two attackers and Argus, not the City and County of Denver, which owns and operates Red Rocks, because case law makes it virtually impossible to sue a government entity for injuries sustained at a public park, Richard says.
The suit juxtaposes Argus’s promise to provide extensively trained guards who ensure patrons safety and create a “worry-free” environment” with descriptions of fans “chugging down bottles of alcohol in full view of Argus employees,” trash cans outside the venue “filled to the top with discarded, empty bottles of alcohol,” and Argus staff who “did not make any effort to check if [patrons] were in possession of alcohol and drugs.”
The complaint goes on to state, “During the concert, Plaintiff Joey Oertli and his companions observed patrons fighting and brawling, without any intervention by Argus employees. Plaintiff Joey Oertli and his companions were seated in the fifth row. Two females in the fourth row got into a fist fight. Argus employees were stationed at the front of the stage, but they did nothing to stop the fight. Fifteen minutes after the fight was over, an Argus employee escorted one of the females out.”
The suit argues violent crimes have been underreported at Red Rocks to create an illusion of safety, including 31 assaults between 2015 and July 1, 2018, noting that all of the assaults were described in incident reports as “assault causing minor bodily injury."
Argus’s attorney, Mark Harris, tells Westword, “We filed an answer, and we intend to defend the case vigorously,” but declined to comment further without his client’s permission.
The answer to the complaint notes that Argus "owed no duty to ensure Plaintiff's safety outside the concert venue from the negligent and/or intentional acts of third parties," and puts full blame on the attackers, arguing the company "cannot be held legally responsible for the unseen criminal behavior of third parties over whom Defendant had no control nor knowledge."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Neither Argus nor Rainbolt have responded to messages from Westword, and Baier was not available for comment. This story comes weeks after Westword reported about a violent assault against a man at a Joe Russo's Almost Dead concert at Red Rocks.
Despite his injuries and trauma, Joey intends to keep going to concerts.
“I don’t want my experience to deter people from going to Red Rocks,” he says. “I think of it as the most beautiful place, the most amazing place in the world. I just want it to be safe.”
This story was updated on Saturday, September 8.