Florida Again: Security Guard, Lukace Kendle Charged in Club Lexx Byrd Murder

June 11, 2012

A security guard accused of shooting two men, killing one of them, in a strip club parking lot was arrested after the family of one of the victims criticized a delay in action.

The family of Kijuan Byrd, who was shot by a security guard outside Club Lexx, along with their attorney Benjamin Crump, speak about the ‘stand your ground’ shooting that killed the 29-year-old and wounded another man.
Miami Herald Studios

Miami-Dade police arrested a security guard on Friday after the family of a man shot dead in a strip club parking lot publicly questioned why investigators were taking so long to act.

Police said that hours before the family held a press conference, they had gotten a warrant to arrest Lukace Shane Kendle, who is accused of shooting two men outside a strip club.

Police said that Kendle, 26, a security guard at the club, told them he shot the two men because he felt threatened. The surviving victim was in the hospital as of Friday.

Kendle, of Homestead, is charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.

Here’s what happened, according to police:

Kendle rolled into Club Lexx’s parking lot, about 15 minutes before the start of his 11 p.m. shift on June 1.

Police said he parked his Chevrolet Avalanche and grabbed his security gear, which included a semiautomatic gun, a nightstick, a badge and a flashlight, when he noticed Michael Smathers, 31, and Kijuan Byrd, 29, both of Miami Gardens, inside a Ford F-150 in the adjacent parking space, rolling marijuana cigarettes.

According to police, Kendle first decided to join his co-workers across the parking lot before he stopped and turned back to get something from inside his truck.

Kendle told police that as he approached his truck, he saw the Ford’s doors swing open and then heard someone shout,

“I’m going to kill that n—–.”

According to the warrant, Kendle said that as Smathers was trying to get out of the Ford, he “might have been pulling something upwards.’’

And, though Kendle did not see a weapon, he “feared for his life,” according to the warrant.

Kendle then pulled his gun out and shot Smathers about four times.

Police said he then turned his attention to Byrd.

Kendle told police that he shot in Byrd’s direction once — because he felt threatened — before walking toward Byrd on the Ford’s passenger side.

By then Byrd had crawled under the Ford, police said.

In the warrant, Kendle said he could not see Byrd’s hand, but fired anyway because he was still “in fear for his life.”

Byrd and Smathers were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, where Byrd later died. An autopsy later revealed that Byrd was shot 11 times. Smathers was still hospitalized Friday in critical condition.

Public outcry soon came as the investigation began and Kendle remained free.

Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Detective Aida Fina-Milian said police took their time because they wanted to be thorough.

“It’s important to conduct a thorough investigation,” she said.

And though the arrest did bring relief to Byrd’s family, it still left them wondering why it took about a week for a suspect to be arrested.

Benjamin Crump, who is representing Byrd’s family, said he believes the reason for the delay was that Kendle was claiming self-defense under the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.

Crump, who also counsels the family of Trayvon Martin, said that the law doesn’t hold up. “It sends the message that you can shoot people and not be held accountable,” Crump said. “We have to seriously revise this.”

In the Martin case, George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing the Miami Gardens teen, used the Stand Your Ground defense.

All three men had prior arrests, but none for serious felonies.

At the Byrd press conference at Range Funeral Home, Byrd’s parents, his sister and brother, a grandfather, two aunts and an uncle stood by as a picture of Byrd in his red football uniform, marked with the number 19, was shown.

Byrd worked as an electrician and left behind two children — a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son.

“My baby is dead and it’s senseless,” his mom, Arlene Byrd, said. -MiamiHerald