Newly released surveillance videos shows a former U.S. Army soldier threatening and then charging at a car in the Miccosukee casino parking lot, spurring a passenger to fatally open fire.
The footage was key evidence for prosecutors who dropped the murder case against two men initially arrested for the killing of Fernando Duarte on Christmas Day at the West Miami-Dade casino.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office determined that Duarte, though unarmed, was the clear aggressor and shooter Kenin Bailey acted in self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
The video was released Tuesday, two months after prosecutors declined to file charges against Bailey and the car’s driver, Mikey Lenard.
The slain man was Duarte, a 33-year-old burly former soldier who had been asked to leave the casino after cursing and directing racial slurs at Bailey and Lenard at the poker table. The footage shows Duarte and a friend leaving the casino, cashing out their chips and chatting amicably with security guards.
But once Duarte got his car in the parking lot, he got out of his car and “engaged” Bailey and Lenard in the parking lot, according to a report by prosecutors. Then, as Bailey and Lenard tried to drive away, Duarte twice maneuvered his car to block theirs from leaving
Lenard later told police Duarte yelled: “I am going to f--k you up and kill you,” while making a hand gesture like a gun; the footage backs up that claim.
Moments later, Duarte again blocked Lenard's car from leaving the resort parking lot. But this time, Duarte got out and charged toward their reversing car, getting so close that Bailey opened fire, shooting 13 times and hitting the man with two fatal shots.
Between Duarte’s threats, hand gestures and the possibility that he might have been reaching for a weapon, Bailey was justified in using deadly force, prosecutors concluded.
“Bailey could have reasonably believed that he and Lenard’s life was in danger and that a firearm may be used against them,” the report said.
Toxicology reports also showed that Duarte was also extremely drunk and likely high on cocaine.
The case was recorded as the first homicide arrest for the Miccosukee police department, which serves a tribe that has long chafed at the rule of state authorities, including the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.
The prosecution was complicated by Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter a grave threat. But Duarte’s killing might likely have been ruled self-defense even before the 2005 law — Bailey and Lenard could have argued they were trying to escape in their reversing car when Duarte charged at them.