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California concert cut short by suicide

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • A concertgoer leapt from the roof of a stage at a winery concert
  • The suicide victim was out on $150,000 bail after threatening to kill his girlfriend
  • The band The Swell Season has reflected on the incident online

(CNN) -- It started out as a lovely summer night in northern California: an outdoor concert at a winery that's set among redwoods and that bills itself as "miles away but worlds apart."

But Thursday's show by the band The Swell Season at the Mountain Winery, just outside San Jose, turned tragic when a concertgoer leapt from the roof of the stage, landed near the lead singer and died, in what authorities say was a suicide.

"Upon arriving, deputies found a doctor and an EMT on the scene, performing CPR on the victim," said Rick Sung, public information officer for the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office. "They did that for almost half an hour when the doctor pronounced the victim dead."

The suicide victim, Michael Edward Pickels, 32, had attended the concert with a friend, Sung said.

"During the performance, the victim left his personal items behind with his friend," Sung said.

"The next thing (witnesses) see is the victim appears on the rooftop out of nowhere and throws himself off."

The roof was about 35 to 40 feet above the stage, Sung said. The doctor who pronounced Pickels dead had been attending the concert.

Authorities said Saturday that Pickels had been out of jail on $150,000 bail after threatening to kill his girlfriend and himself on New Year's Day. Pickels had been charged with assault with a firearm, domestic violence and false imprisonment, Sung said.

Pickels had bound his girlfriend, aimed a loaded gun at her, and said he was going to kill them both, according to Sung. The girlfriend talked him out of it, Sung said, then fled and phoned the sheriff's office.

When deputies arrived at Pickels' house, he refused to come out for 90 minutes before surrendering.

Pickels' death was ruled a suicide by Santa Clara County's coroner Friday, Sung said.

The Mountain Winery relies on Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies to patrol its parking lot and concessions area during concerts, Sung said, but provides its own security for the stage and audience area.

The winery, located in Saratoga, did not immediately return a call for comment Saturday night, though it addressed the incident in a brief message on its web site.

"Thank you to all of you [who] have inquired about the unfortunate incident that occurred here on Thursday evening," the message said. "While we are working with local authorities in investigating this incident, there will be no changes to our concert schedule."

The Swell Season, a pop/rock duo, has reflected on the incident on its web site and social networking sites.

"The band, crew and all involved with them are shocked and saddened by the death that occurred at last night's show," the songwriting duo said on its Twitter page Friday.

The Swell Season posted another message on its Facebook page Saturday before a concert in Washington state.

"Making and performing music is what the band has always done in good times and in bad," it read. "Our hope is that in this communal experience tonight we can somehow help our own grieving process after what we just witnessed. The show will most certainly be different than any other we have ever played."

"We wish to continue to be sensitive to family and friends of this individual and hope that in performing it is not viewed as a selfish act," the message continues. "We have not come to this decision lightly. We continue to have them at the forefront of our minds and hearts.?"

CNN's Dan Gilgoff contributed to this report.