The call that came in to Howard Ray the night of Feb. 17, 2003, wasn’t expected. It was, however, life changing. His nephew was outside of E2 nightclub, on the phone with tragic news.

“He called from the place and informed us my son was in there and was not coming out. We didn’t know what was going on,” Ray recalled. “My stomach felt like it was coming out. I had to go to the bathroom and I thought I wanted to throw up.”

Ray’s 24-year-old son, DaShand, died that night in a stampede sparked by a pepper spraying incident. He was one of 21 victims who perished inside the Near South Side club, once located at 2347 S. Michigan.

While the E2 stampede stands out as one of the most infamous and deadly tragedies in recent years, seven years after the fact, relatives of the victims say they remain in the dark about basic facts.

At a press conference last week, victims’ family members and supporters called on the U.S. Department of Justice to open a federal investigation into the incident. The families will gather signatures in support of an investigation, passing petitions at churches and other places.

Sheretta Patterson-Pennington lost her 22-year-old daughter, Nicole, at E2. She said no one’s been held accountable for those lost in the stampede.

“To me, it’s just a blame game. The city blames owners. The owners blame the city. The promoters blamed the DJ. The DJ blamed the security team,” she said. “It’s just a volleyball situation with my daughter’s life.”

Ray said the Justice Department should examine first-responder actions the night of the incident and claimed video footage from Feb. 17, 2003, was missing.

“We’re not going to go anyplace until we find the answers to the questions we ask,” Ray said.

The families also said at the press conference that they want the E2 site to become a community center for young people and a memorial for the victims. n