Miami-Dade County

Miami security guard’s stand-your-ground defense falls flat

Former security guard Lukace Kendle shows how he fired his weapon in shooting a man outside a North Miami-Dade strip club in June 2012. He claimed self defense and was found guilty Friday.
Former security guard Lukace Kendle shows how he fired his weapon in shooting a man outside a North Miami-Dade strip club in June 2012. He claimed self defense and was found guilty Friday. Miami Herald Staff

A man who mounted a stand-your-ground defense in his Miami murder trial, likening himself to George Zimmerman while acting as his own attorney, wasn’t as fortunate as Zimmerman.

Lukace Kendle, 29, is going to prison. He was convicted Friday of second-degree murder with a firearm and attempted murder in a 2012 shooting incident that left Kijuan Byrd dead and Michael Smathers paralyzed. He faces life behind bars.

The former security guard at Club Rol-lexx, 12001 NW 27th Ave., said he was acting in self-defense when he shot the two men. The prosecution argued that Kendle acted purposefully and that Byrd and Smathers were unarmed.

Throughout the trial Kendle declined assistance from his court-appointed stand-by counsel, Abe Bailey, even in the moments before and after the jury’s verdict was announced. Kendle never presented evidence and did not testify on his own behalf.

During the trial, he likened himself to George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin near Orlando in February 2012, and said he was standing his ground. That Zimmerman case sparked national debate about the Stand Your Ground law, which eliminates a citizen’s duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter a threat.

The incident that took place at about 11 p.m. outside the club on June 1, 2012. During his testimony, Smathers said he and Byrd were barbecuing earlier in the day and decided to come to Club Rol-lexx to shoot pool. They played a few games of pool, watched some of the Miami Heat game and then returned to Smathers’ truck to smoke a joint before going back inside.

Kendle showed up for work and backed into a tight parking spot next to Smathers and Byrd. When he exited the car he began dressing for work in an all-black uniform with a vest, baton, gloves, a knife, ammunition and his gun. The three men exchanged looks. As Smathers and Byrd prepared to re-enter the club and Kendle came back to his car, the security guard opened fire.

Smathers said that he and Byrd did nothing to provoke the attack, while Kendle argued that the men, “were there to kill me.”

After the verdict was announced, family and friends of Byrd tearfully gathered outside the courtroom hugging and crying.

A sentencing date for Kendle has not been finalized. Both sides will reconvene on Oct. 9 to set a date.

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