Controversy over gun-toting security guards at Lauderhill complex

Residents of Castle Gardens condominiums feel they're being held hostage

LAUDERHILL, Fla. - Some residents of the Castle Gardens condominium complex feel they're being held hostage by a group of badge-wearing, gun-toting, wannabe police officers.

They're actually security guards for a company called Elite Tactical Services, which was hired by the condo board last year.

"What the hell is going on here? We're not even safe from our own security force?" said resident Stuart Katz.

The company employs heavily armed guards who residents said drive around in unmarked cars with red and white lights and pull over motorists, point guns at people who they feel are acting suspiciously, and use handcuffs.

"Guns up here, gun up here, gun here, Taser here. Full tactical gear, some have been in masks," said Al Sutton, who claims one of the guards pointed a gun at him last month after he questioned why an ETS officer pulled over his son, who was simply coming to pick up his 6-month-old daughter.

"He's like, 'I don't like the way you're driving through here.' I'm like, 'What do you out mean?' He's like, 'You're driving too fast. Don't be driving over here like that,'" said Al Sutton Jr. "I said, 'No, you can't do anything,' and he said, 'Oh, I'll show you. I can do something,' and he pulled his gun."

ETS is a state-licensed security company whose guards are allowed to carry guns, if they're properly licensed and trained. However, they aren't supposed to pull over motorists or use handcuffs, which is what Katz said happened to him after he got escorted out of a board meeting in April.

"They dragged me to the ground, they put my arms behind my back, they put handcuffs on me and they put a choke collar around my neck," Katz said.

Condominium President Marian Weber hung up on Local 10's Roger Lohse after she defended the security company's tactics. Another board member, known as Pastor Patrice, told Lohse she was under the impression the tactics were legal.

Former prosecutor Todd Baker, a civil attorney with Ellsley Sobol who's now representing the residents, said the guards are committing crimes.

"It sounds like kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated assault. You don't get to call yourself a security guard and get carte blanche to commit crimes," Baker said.

Lt. Michael Butkus, with the Lauderhill Police Department, told Local 10 that it has received more than five complaints against ETS employees since the company started patrolling the Castle Gardens condominiums late last year. He also said detectives are actively investigating the allegations.

The owner of the company -- Bob Harris, who employees call "General Bob" -- denied his officers are vigilantes or pose as police officers. He said his company protects four other communities in the area and has an impeccable record.

Some residents said it's just a matter of time before the new efforts to protect their community result in someone getting hurt.

"This can't go on. Somebody's going to get killed," said Katz.

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