Due to conditions at the Sands Hotel and Seaside Bar and Grill, the family of Troy Nichols may have a case for a wrongful death claim, due to negligent or inadequate security. Many questions still remain to be answered regarding conditions surrounding security at the hotel and bar where Nichols was shot on Valentine’s Day.
Why was a customer with a gun allowed on the premises? Did the property not employ enough security guards or employ other reasonable measures to keep residents and visitors safe? How come there was not a law enforcement presence at the property that late at night?
Lawrence Antonio Mitchell, 43, was charged with second-degree murder following his arrest in the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Troy Nichols, which took place outside of the Sands Hotel in Riviera Beach.
“Angry Boyfriend” Responsible for the Shooting
Police say Mitchell became angry after Troy Nichols offered to buy Mitchell’s girlfriend a drink at the Seaside Bar and Grill, located in the same building as the Sands Hotel. According to witnesses, Troy Nichols approached the woman and “asked what she was drinking,” a story later confirmed by Mitchell’s girlfriend. An argument ensued, eventually spilling out into a parking lot. Another witness, who tried to calm both men down, saw Mitchell pull a gun from his waistband, before firing in Nichols’ direction.
Other witnesses reported seeing Mitchell holding a handgun as he walked from the crime scene to the Ocean Mall parking lot. According to the arrest report, police investigators reported finding an empty .45 caliber cartridge near Troy Nichols’ body. All of the witnesses involved later identified Mitchell from a collection of photos provided by investigators.
Girlfriend Confirms Confrontation
Faith Hawver-King, described as Mitchell’s “on and off girlfriend,” said that Mitchell walked into the bar and “had an issue with the unknown male,” before following Nichols outside. Hawver-King also noted she saw the two men shaking hands outside before the situation escalated.
“I’m angry and I don’t understand how something like this can happen,” said Laiken Smerdon, Troy Nichols’ longtime girlfriend. In an interview, Smerdon, who is the mother of Nichols’ 7-month-old son, said, “We just want to know what happened,” after Nichols left their home to hang out with a friend.
“He loves his family. He’s a good son, a good brother. He loves to fish. He’s a great person. I don’t have much that I can say other than he was an amazing person. We love him, his family loves him.”
Residents Concerned About Safety
Located in the heart of Singer Island, there is a consensus among local businesses and residents is that both the Sands Hotel and Seaside Bar and Grill raise safety concerns.
“They need to make changes on that hotel, because it’s just not a right place for here,” said an employee of a nearby business. “The island has been changing a lot, and it’s a nice place to be and come and visit, but that particular section there, it just doesn’t belong.”
Residents worry that if something doesn’t change, and if police don’t increase their presence in the area, bad things will continue to happen. “They’re open very late,” noted one local resident. “It can get a little shady at times.”
Florida Property Owners Have a Duty to Keep Residents, Visitors Safe
Under Florida premises liability law, business owners have a duty to provide reasonable security of their premises to reduce the opportunity for criminals to engage in violent acts such as shootings, robberies, rape, or murder. When they fail to do so, and a violent act occurs that results in severe injury or death, the surviving family members may be able to file a lawsuit against the company for negligent security.
Key methods to secure a property include: security cameras/closed-circuit TVs, fences, on-premise security personnel, and alert and attentive premises managers, owners, and workers. When an act of violence happens, there may be some burden of liability on the premises owner, because they may have failed to secure the property adequately.
Notice: As a personal injury firm, we frequently provide legal analysis and opinion on news stories in the hope that the family and friends of the victims may gain some valuable insight into our theories of negligence surrounding the available facts. Respectfully, our hearts and thoughts are with those who have suffered a catastrophic injury or death.