TAMPA — The owner of a security firm that employs two guards who fatally shot two people at a teen night event on New Year’s Day is facing a lawsuit stemming from the shooting of a bystander at a Brandon night club five years ago.
Andre Jennings, Sr. and his firm, Eagle One Security Force, are among the defendants in the lawsuit filed last year by Alejandro Uribe, who was shot in the leg in the parking lot of the Boomerang Martini Bar on Dec. 22, 2012. The suit claims Jennings acted negligently when he shot at an armed man in the parking lot of the now-shuttered club, striking Uribe in the process.
That case is unfolding as the investigators scrutinize the actions of two security guards who shot at a car parked outside a teen-night party at an event hall in Tampa, killing two occupants — Jyhaad D. Grant, 25, and Julissa Jackson, 15.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle One security guards Keyon Williams and Connor Harm claimed they returned fire after someone in the car began shooting at them about 10:45 p.m. Managers had decided to end the party early at the Stor-ette Business Park because fights had broken out.
The black Nissan Sentra that Grant and Jackson occupied at the time was riddled with bullets. Both died at the scene. Two handguns that recently had been fired were found in the car, the Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
No charges have been filed in the case.
In the lawsuit over the 2012 shooting, there is no dispute that Jennings, who was 25 at the time, shot at an armed man who had just shot another man. Authorities later determined there were no grounds for criminal charges against Jennings.
But Uribe’s attorney John D. Andreopoulos says Jennings went too far by firing at the assailant as the man ran away through the crowded parking lot.
"He’s basically spraying the parking lot with bullets and hit my client," Andreopoulos said. "It may not be criminal but in my opinion it’s grossly negligent. It’s a miracle he only killed the suspect."
Jennings has not returned messages from the Tampa Bay Times this week. Records show Jennings is being represented in the 2016 case by the Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry law firm. An attorney at the firm declined to comment Wednesday. In court filings responding to the lawsuit, Jennings and his co-defendant Jeffrey Hatjioannou, described as owner or operator, deny the negligence claims.
The incident unfolded after a dispute broke out over a woman’s purse in the crowded night club and spilled out into the parking lot about 3 a.m., just before closing time, the Sheriff’s Office said at the time. Hundreds had gathered there for a performance by Reggaeton star Farruko.
The purse belonged to the girlfriend of 28-year-old Louis Kuilan-Maysonet. When Christopher Gonzalez-Cartagena, 29, tried to walk toward his car, Kuilan-Maysonet fired several shots at him, authorities reported.
That’s when Jennings, who was directing traffic, intervened. His partner on the assignment that night was Keyon Williams, one of the guards involved in the New Year’s Day teen-party shooting. Williams did not fire his weapon that night.
According to the transcript of a statement Jennings gave detectives, he heard gunshots, turned around and saw Kuilan-Maysonet between two cars shooting at someone. Jennings said he yelled at Kuilan-Maysonet and he "looked at me with the gun." Jennings said he opened fire and Kuilan-Maysonet began to run toward a group of people.
"I yelled for him ... gave him a command to drop it and don’t run and he kept running so I fired again," Jennings said.
Jennings told investigators he emptied a 17-round clip with one in the chamber, but wasn’t sure if the clip was full.
At least one round hit Kuilan-Maysonet. He died later at Brandon Regional Hospital. Gonzalez-Cartagena was shot several times, including a graze to the head. He was taken to Tampa General Hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.
When the shooting began, Uribe, then 22, ducked behind a parked car. One of the rounds struck him in the leg. According to Andreopoulos, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement analysis showed the round came from Jennings’ gun.
Uribe underwent surgery to install a rod extending from his knee to his ankle, still has pain and probably will always have a slight limp, Andreopoulos said. He’s seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages. The case is set for mediation and will go to a jury if that fails.
Andreopoulos said he believes Jennings actions in the 2012 case stem from Florida’s lax training requirements for armed security guards and Jennings’ lack of experience. He had earned his state certification the previous year.
"There is not any trained firearms expert who would look at that set of circumstances," Andreopoulos said, "and say he should have been discharging his firearm when the man was fleeing."
Times senior new researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.