The security guard who shot and killed a man outside a Baton Rouge hookah lounge earlier this month was not registered to work in the industry, as required under state law. But police have nonetheless ruled the shooting justified based on the circumstances.
The case is representative of a larger problem: private security companies and guards failing to complete licensing and registration requirements.
As a result of the shooting, state officials are doubling down on an industry that often lacks the rigorous training of law enforcement or the military, but still aims to protect public safety — and allows workers to carry a gun for that purpose.
All private security companies in Louisiana are required to become licensed with the State Board of Private Security Examiners and then register their employees, meaning each person must pass a background check and complete training requirements before starting work. Armed guards must also complete additional training before being allowed to carry a firearm on the job.
But only about 40 percent of all private security guards in Louisiana actually follow those rules, said board director Fabian Blache III. He estimates there are about 12,000 registered guards and 16,000 unregistered guards in the state, placing Louisiana just below the national average of about 45 percent registered.
Security companies that aren't licensed are often uninsured, Blache said. And guards who aren't registered could be felons without firearm training working as armed security officers, responsible for protecting people at concerts, nightclubs and sporting events.
Baton Rouge police have not identified the security guard who killed one person and wounded two others at The Spot Hookah Lounge on July 7, citing an ongoing investigation. The police department has made its decision not to arrest the man, but department spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely Jr. said the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office is now in the process of reviewing the case and could decide to press charges.
According to the police account, security guards had escorted a group of people out of the hookah lounge around 2:30 a.m. after a fight at the Florida Boulevard establishment. But patron Derrick Johnson, 40, pulled out a handgun and tried to go back inside the business.
When the guards tried to stop Johnson, he threatened them with the gun, police said. That's when one of the guards opened fire.
Johnson was pronounced dead on the scene. Two other people were hospitalized with injuries and are expected to recover.
Blache said he has determined the guards were employees of the lounge, not a security company, and were paid in cash, both of which are not permissible under state law.
He said the guard who discharged his gun had worked for a licensed security company a few years ago. That company provided security for another business in the same Florida Boulevard strip mall as the hookah lounge.
The father of that guard had also been hired by the lounge to provide security, Blache said.
The lounge owner could not be located for comment.
A security guard shot and killed a man and wounded two others early Saturday after the slain man threatened the guard with a gun outside of a …
The guards won't face criminal charges for working without a license, Blache said, but they will likely never be able to legally work in the private security industry because the board has the authority to reject their applications based on past violations.
He was nonetheless careful to point out that the shooting does not appear the result of insufficient training or inappropriate use of force.
"I will tell you based just on what I know, (the guard) probably prevented what could have been a lot of other fatalities," Blache said. "That's the part about this that always concerns me — you've got somebody trying to do something for the right reason, but there's this question of whether (the guard) should have been there in that capacity in the first place."
He said that also leaves "a big question mark" over who could ultimately be held liable for what happened.
"The beauty of our law is that it's designed to protect the public from an untrained, unlicensed, uninsured workforce. That's why it exists," he said. "In this case, those protective layers aren't present."
Blache took over leadership of the State Board of Private Security Examiners in 2016 and said he's hoping to boost compliance and professionalism within the field.
"We don't want to see anybody ever injured or killed, God forbid," he said. "But should something occur, it's important for the public to understand that we're trying to ferret out these unlicensed operations so that when lead starts flying around our city, there's mechanisms in place to make people whole."