A judge has approved a partial settlement in which families of 21 people killed in a 2003 Chicago nightclub stampede will receive $1.5 million, attorneys announced Thursday.

Under the settlement approved Wednesday by Cook County Circuit Judge Kathy M. Flanagan, E2 club owners Calvin Hollins and Dwain Kyles and building owner Lesly Benodin will pay into a fund established for the plaintiffs.

They were then dismissed as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the victims' families.

But Kyles; Hollins; Hollins' son, Calvin Hollins III; and a fourth man, party promoter Marco Flores, still face criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter in the Feb. 17, 2003, stampede, said Melvin Brooks, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys. All four have pleaded not guilty.

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Dozens of people were crushed in a narrow stairwell at the E2 nightclub when someone used pepper spray to break up a dance floor fight and sent the crowd into a panic. Bodies jammed the door as people still inside tried to push their way out.

A grand jury indictment said the owners willfully packed the club with about 1,200 people the night of the stampede, roughly five times its capacity of 240.

A number of individuals and corporations still remain as defendants in lawsuits, Brooks said. The city is also a defendant, accused of failing to ensure the building was safe. The city has contended the club owner and operator were responsible.

Ed Grasse, one of the attorneys for the settling defendants, said he was pleased Flanagan approved the settlement.

"We're very happy to get this piece of the litigation over with and give some closure to the families," Grasse said.