Man taken off life support after being placed in chokehold by bouncers

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THORNTON, Colo. -- A 23-year-old man was taken off life support Tuesday morning after his friends and family said he was put in a chokehold by bouncers at a bar early Sunday morning.

Sammy Pickel, 23, had been in a coma since being taken to North Suburban Medical Center before he was taken off life support about 4 a.m. Tuesday, a family friend said. His sister, Jocelyn Pickel, said from Pennsylvania that she wants to see the bouncers criminally charged.

"He came into this world laughing and smiling. He was so happy. He really loved life and he really loved people," Jocelyn Pickel said.

With charm that could light up a room, Jocelyn Pickel said you could always find Sammy with his girlfriend of two years, Suzy Meacham, and their dog Diesel.

You could also see him, she said, at his former employer, Lodo's Bar and Grill in Westminster, where they stopped when she was in town last Christmas.

"Everyone was so friendly towards my brother," she said of the bar employees. "And they hugged him and they told me how great of a guy he was and how I was lucky to have a brother like him."

That's why Jocelyn Pickel can't understand what happened to Sammy at the same bar around 12:30 a.m. Sunday that left him fighting for his life before he died.

"He's not responding to anything at all," Jocelyn Pickel said Monday before leaving her Pennsylvania home for Denver. "He has no brain activity."

Meacham was with Sammy Pickel on Sunday night. She told Jocelyn Pickel that someone pushed Sammy Pickel and bouncers stepped in, assuming Sammy was the aggressor.

"Four of the bouncers went over and grabbed my brother from all different angles," Jocelyn Pickel said Meacham told her. "And they banged his head on a table full of glasses, banged his head on the floor. And then they were choking him. So he had no oxygen going to his brain and he went into cardiac arrest."

Westminster police arrived a short time later, rushing an unresponsive Sammy Pickel to the hospital. Investigators are trying to figure out who started the fight and if the bouncers, or anyone else, should be charged.

"I’m not really sure what types of training they go through or what type of behavior is acceptable as far as breaking up fights," Westminster police spokeswoman Kate Kazell said. "I mean, obviously, we don’t want anyone hurt or to sustain long-term injuries."

Jocelyn Pickel said she believes the bouncers went too far and she's calling for justice.

"I believe they should be charged with murder," she said. "They killed my brother."

A manager at Lodo's said the bar is cooperating fully with the investigation, but would not comment further. So far, no charges have been filed.