Friends want authorities to investigate man’s nightclub death as homicide _lowres

Danny Bettencourt

Friends of a man found unresponsive inside a Bourbon Street gay club Monday morning during the Southern Decadence festival are asking police to investigate his death as a homicide.

Just two hours before Danny Bettencourt went to the Oz nightclub, he was in high spirits and good shape, his friend Todd Seal said. About 5:30 a.m., however, he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Bettencourt, 27, was found by police on the floor of the club after they responded to a disturbance call about 4:20 a.m., according to New Orleans Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble.

Men inside the club who identified themselves as friends of Bettencourt reportedly told police at the scene that he had become irate at some point and was trying to fight several other patrons in the bar.

Bettencourt “pulled out” one man’s teeth before passing out, according to the police report.

The death of the father of three is being treated as an unclassified death for now by the Police Department, meaning police are waiting on word from Coroner Jeffrey Rouse on how Bettencourt died.

“Preliminary autopsy results revealed no gross anatomical signs of trauma but did reveal a potential cardiac abnormality,” Rouse said in a statement. “Further medical testing, including toxicological analysis, is currently pending. As such, his death remains under investigation.”

Gamble said the NOPD’s Homicide Section is awaiting the coroner’s decision before investigating the death.

But Seal and Derek Galose, who described themselves as close friends of Bettencourt, urged police to investigate the death before getting an official determination from the coroner.

Both men said they believe Bettencourt died as a result of a fight with others inside the club, and they said officials should investigate the incident quickly to determine whether to hold someone responsible.

Seal claimed an investigator for the Coroner’s Office suggested he go to the 8th District Station with a potential witness to the fight. When he arrived there Tuesday night, he said, he talked to three officers on duty.

Seal said he was not told in so many words to leave, but he perceived an unwelcome environment. When he told the officers he had gone to the media, he said, one officer at the station told him, “I wish you wouldn’t have done that. You shouldn’t have done that.” No one took a statement from the witness, he said.

Seal was not able to provide the names or badge numbers of the officers he spoke with.

Gamble said the 8th District had no record of anyone coming in Tuesday night to speak with a police officer about the incident.

“We were definitely there,” Seal said. “It sounds like they conveniently don’t remember it.”

A spokesperson for Oz did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.