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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office considers the death of a man after a struggle in an Arrowhead Stadium parking lot a homicide.
Court documents released late Wednesday afternoon say that the victim was repeatedly punched in the face after he was found in the wrong vehicle. Police arrested and questioned the Independence man, but no charges have been filed.
The Kansas City Police Department said the medical examiner has told detectives about the preliminary findings. Kyle Van Winkle, 30, of Smithville, died Sunday night after getting in a struggle after the owner of a Jeep found Van Winkle sleeping inside it. The man accused of punching Van Winkle did not own the Jeep.
A witness found a bloody Van Winkle lying on the ground. He wasn't breathing, according to court records. Good Samaritans performed CPR until paramedics arrived and rushed Van Winkle to an area hospital, where he would die.
Van Winkle apparently mistakenly got into the wrong vehicle, which was unlocked. The Jeep looked similar to the one that Van Winkle arrived to the game in and was about 10 vehicles away on the same row.
"Detectives have been working the case as a homicide from the beginning so the investigation will not change," Officer Darrin Snapp said.
At 5:42 p.m., officers rushed to the scene of the fight in Lot A. Van Winkle had blood on his face. Witnesses told police that an Independence man had punched Van Winkle in the face several times and that he fled the scene when police and paramedics were called.
The police department took four persons of interest into custody, but released them 24 hours later. The Independence man was the last person taken into custody and that came after his home was put under surveillance overnight Sunday.
The Independence man's home was searched by police on Monday. Authorities seized a Jamaal Charles jersey, jeans and athletic shoes. The man is believed to have been wearing the clothing when he punched Van Winkle, according to court records. Police also sought a yellow-and-red beaded necklace but that wasn't taken in the search.
Officers asked a judge to approve the search warrant so that they can see if "blood, hair, fiber and other microscopic evidence of a homicide" can be found on the clothing.
Detectives are still hoping to find other witnesses and hope to send the case to the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office for a review.
Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker could act on the police findings when they are sent to her office or wait until the full autopsy results are completed before deciding how to proceed.
A complete autopsy won't be completed for up to eight weeks because toxicology results can take up to eight weeks to be completed.
"Our medical examiner doesn't release any information until the full autopsy is complete," said Dan Ferguson, a spokesman for Jackson County.
Van Winkle's memorial service will be Friday. He is survived by his wife and 7-week-old son named William. Click here to see his full obituary. He was a loan specialist for a credit union.
Police say Van Winkle went to the game in a similar vehicle and the vehicle he was found in showed no signs of a break-in, the Associated Press reported.
Dean Van Winkle, a police sergeant for the Grandview Police Department, maintains his son made an innocent mistake.
"So much of what I am seeing makes my son look to be the one to blame," he wrote to the Kansas City Star. "Those that know my son know he is not a thief and how good a man he is. Not much else can be said."
The newspaper said Kyle Van Winkle went to see the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos game with about a dozen friends and relatives, including his father. The game kicked off at 3:25 p.m. and the gates to allow tailgating opened hours before the game.
Dean Van Winkle said his son early in the game excused himself to go to the restroom, the Star reported. His father is haunted because he doesn't know why his son left the stadium and that his final image of his son is him walking down a steep flight of steps alone.
"That's what's so painful," Dean Van Winkle told the newspaper. "I can't tell you how many times I've second-guessed myself. I wish I could have gone with him."
He told the newspaper that he didn't see any signs that his son was intoxicated or feeling unwell. The owner of the Jeep in which Kyle Van Winkle was found had returned to his vehicle with his 10-year-old son. Some nearby tailgaters joined the fray.
Police are investigating exactly what happened during those critical moments.
Witnesses told police that the Independence man left Van Winkle on the ground after repeatedly punching him, the newspaper reported. Someone propped him up against a bus, police told the Star.
The bystanders went back to their tailgate party and the Jeep's owner and his son left the area. Later, someone noticed Van Winkle was turning blue, police told The Star. A woman flagged down security officers about 5:40 p.m. and other bystanders started CPR.
The 24-year-old Independence man, who KCTV5 isn't identifying because he has not been charged, is reportedly represented by Gary Helm, who is a part-time Independence municipal judge.
"My client's really remorseful," Helm told the newspaper. "It was just a misunderstanding of the whole situation ... there are two sides to every story and the truth is usually somewhere in between."
Helm said the Jeep owner initially thanked his client for his help in the parking lot. A witness told police she overheard the Jeep owner saying that he was glad other people were there for him, the Star reported.
"The next thing you know, he's spending the night in jail and it's being called a homicide," Helm said of his client. "I think it may be a hasty decision to rule it a homicide without all the medical evidence and toxicology results."
Van Winkle's death is the city's 100th homicide of 2013.
His death occurred exactly one year after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his infant daughter, and then drove to Arrowhead, where he killed himself in front of horrified team leaders.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
Saturday, January 18 2014 5:23 PM EST2014-01-18 22:23:54 GMT
A homicide occurred on Sunday at Arrowhead where the Kansas City Chiefs and Broncos played each other.More >>
The man who died following a struggle at Arrowhead Stadium during the Chiefs game is the son of an area police sergeant. Three who were taken into custody and questioned as part of the death investigation were released Monday. More >>