NewsCovering Kern County


Coroner rules unsolved case a homicide, 15 years after shooting

Coroner rules unsolved case a homicide
Posted at 5:42 PM, May 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-10 20:42:52-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — New developments surfaced in an unsolved case from 15 years ago Friday.

The case involved a man who was shot at a nightclub in 2004 who recently died from his gunshot wound. Now police may reopen the case since officials are calling the man's death a homicide.

Police said Thompson was shot in the early morning hours of February 29, 2004 at the old Elks Lodge nightclub on East California Avenue.

Thompson was taken to the hospital but recovered from his injuries and returned home.
The investigation continued for several months after the shooting to find the person responsible, but the case eventually fell cold according to Sergeant Nathan McCauley.

"They exhausted all investigative leads that they had at that point and the case was closed," McCauley said.

According to the Kern County Coroners Office 50-year-old John Christopher Thompson died on February 28, 2019, nearly 15 years ago to the day, from a gunshot wound he sustained in 2004. Thompson's family members and the Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) confirmed with 23ABC News that 50-year-old Thompson was found dead in his home in East Bakersfield.

The coroner deemed Thompson's death a homicide on Friday.

"Based on their examination of Mr. Thompson who died in February of 2019...they believe the matter of death was a homicide caused by complications related to those gunshot wounds," McCauley said.

Law enforcement officials said they are now taking a second look into the case.

McCauley said there is no statute of limitations in a case of murder, even if the victim dies 15 years later.
According to McCauley, besides Thompson, five other people were also shot at the club, which burned down in 2017.

If BPD ultimately decides to reopen the case after reviewing it and is able to generate a suspect, then the case would be referred over to the Kern County District Attorney's Office for first-degree murder charges. It's a case the District Attorney's Office said would need substantial evaluation.

"We would have to spend a lot of time going over medical records and history and find out if the cause of death really was related to that event that happened so long ago," Deputy District Attorney for the Kern County District Attorney's Office, Joe Kinzle said.

Kinzle said this is not an entirely uncommon circumstance by any means.

"Because there has been a lot of medical advances that people can stay alive a lot longer even after being dealt fatal injuries," Kinzle said.

He said in order to convict someone, the prosecutor would have to prove in court that the gunshot wound was Thompson's cause of death 15 years later.

"That's something we want to be sure of before we decide to move forward," Kinzle said.

Thompson's grandmother told 23ABC News he was living with her and had health problems after the shooting, but she was shocked by the coroner's report and didn't believe the gunshot wound is what killed her grandson.