They have badges, uniforms and guns, and every day, security guards are thrown into volatile situations. The Center for Investigative Reporting says there are more security guards in the U.S. than local law enforcement officers. A violent night in Miami shows the danger when regulators approve guard licenses without conducting mental health evaluations or checking for substance abuse. The killing outside a popular strip club devastated the Byrd family. Donald Byrd, the father of Kijuan Byrd, who was killed, raged at security guard Lukace Kendle, who was found mentally unfit to stand trial after he rejected his paid attorney and insisted on representing himself. Under federal law, those judged mentally defective or committed to a mental institution, along with drug abusers, are not allowed access to guns. Yet regulators in Florida and across the U.S. have approved guard licenses without conducting mental health evaluations or checking for evidence of substance abuse.
Only four states – Delaware, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and New Mexico – require armed-guard applicants to undergo a mental health evaluation, which is standard for law enforcement officers. The shooting at Club Lexx followed years of mounting evidence that Kendle's employer, Force Protection Security, was not adequately screening its guard applicants. On his armed-guard license application, Kendle had disclosed that he had a criminal history. He did not mention alcohol-related problems that resulted in his discharge from the U.S. Navy or his past addiction to crack cocaine, cited by his mother in court documents. He'd been arrested for marijuana possession and disorderly intoxication, requiring him to complete a treatment program.