FORT MYERS – The company in charge of security at the zombie-themed festival that ended in bloodshed last year has had countless problems with Florida’s licensing department in the past.
In October 2015, Tyrell Taylor, 20, was killed when a shooter opened fire on First Street in downtown Fort Myers during Zombicon. Five others were injured.
Southwest Florida Security and Investigations, which was in charge of security at the event, allegedly has had ongoing licensing issues dating back to the early 2000s, Kip Sinclair, the lawyer for Taylor's family, said.
WINK News reported that company owner Jesse Morgan was fined $2,200 in 2006 for multiple violations related to illegal training of security guards; in 2010, he allegedly submitted fraudulent documents about non-existent licenses; and in 2014, the company was fined $1,750 for employing guards without licenses.
Earlier this year, the company was fined another $400 for employing an unlicensed guard at Zombicon.
Sinclair, whose firm Sinclair Law Offices is suing the security company as well as the festival's organizers on behalf of Taylor's family, recently told the Northern California Record that security issues should have been addressed to prevent his death.
“Proper hiring, training and supervision of its guards (should have been addressed),” he said. “And proper evaluation of the assignments and proper staffing of events.”
Lawyers for Southwest Florida Security and Investigations, however, claimed in legal documents that the company’s contract “didn’t provide for making sure the people at the event were safe.”
Sinclair said that it was unbelievable that the security company denied any obligation to ensuring the safety of those attending the event.
“That’s what they were hired to do,” he said. “Otherwise, they could have just had volunteers sitting at tables at the entrances to the event taking money.”
Zombicon's official website states that more than 20,000 people attend the Fort Myers festival each year. Given the size of the event, and the fact that some attendees show up with fake weapons, local authorities have said it is hard to police Zombicon.
Sinclair said those challenges need to be tackled to ensure that the public's safety.
“They need to add more limited entrances, metal detectors, restrict weapons - real or fake - and ensure better trained security personnel,” he said.