Kick ass carl Hiaasen

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Pistol-packing guards shoot up sense of security

February 11, 1987

Last week a security guard at a local Food Giant grocery store shot and seriously wounded a customer who was arguing over the price of limes.

It's an age-old question for the lawman with a gun—where to draw that fine line for using deadly force. Is it limes, or tangerines? Grapefruits or guavas? Produce or dairy products?

Just when do you pull the trigger?

Now comes the news that the security guard, Hugo Nilo Salazar, has himself been in previous scrapes with the law—a disclosure that seems to come as no shock to state licensing officials.

To see what a cracker jack job Florida is doing to regulate the private security business, I checked our clippings from the last five years. Some of these guys make Barney Fife look like Wyatt Earp:

• August 1986. A security guard shot a man in the back after he allegedly walked out of a South Dade convenience store without paying for a six-pack of beer.

• May 1986. One security guard shot and wounded another security guard in a dispute at a Miami Beach hotel bar.

• March 1986. In Pompano Beach, an ex-security guard allegedly robbed the hotel that had employed him and shot two of his former co-workers.

• December 1985. In Lauderhill, a 21 -year-old security guard said he accidentally shot his friend in the head while their car was stopped at a traffic light.

• October 1985. In Miami Beach, a former security guard who was returning his uniform accidentally killed himself while trying to remove his gun from the waistband of his pants.

• June 1985. In North Dade, one security guard shot and fatally wounded another during an argument.

• June 1985. In Palm Beach, a security guard who was not authorized to carry a weapon allegedly used a shotgun to shoot a suspected shoplifter.

• March 1985. A Miami security guard was charged with second-degree murder after shooting an unruly customer at a Church's fried chicken restaurant.

• March 1985. A Pompano Beach security guard was charged with manslaughter after allegedly shooting a suspected burglar with a 20-gauge shotgun.

• January 1984. A security guard at a Miami construction site was charged with second-degree murder after shooting another guard during a quarrel.

• August 1983. A security guard was charged with manslaughter after shooting a suspected shoplifter as he ran through Miami's garment district.

• August 1983. A 73-year-old bank security guard allegedly shot and killed another guard because he thought that the man had put a voodoo hex on him.

• April 1983.Two security guards at a Key Biscayne marina got into an argument and opened fire on each other. One died.

• August 1982. In Miami Beach, a security guard was charged with second-degree murder after fatally shooting a 78-year-old man. The old man allegedly had tried to stop the guard from beating up a woman.

The pattern is unsettling. When security guards aren't shooting each other, they're shooting unarmed civilians, which happens to be a crime. Not even real policemen can shoot shoplifters.

While some firms diligently check a guard applicant's qualifications, others obviously don't care.To make matters more ridiculous, police are not required to report crimes by security guards to state licensing authorities.

To prove conclusively that any bozo can become a security guard, this newspaper sent a reporter out to do just that. In one day he got a gun, a badge, a nifty uniform—and a job.

That was i£ years ago, and not much has changed. Obviously legislators still don't have enough wisdom to keep guns and badges away from clods, loons and hotheads. If there's no other solution, do what Sheriff Taylor did to Barney Fife—take away his bullet.

Horse race would have sloppy track

March 21, 1988

This week, the Florida Cabinet gets to hear about the big plan to put an Arabian horse-racing track on Miami Beach. Literally, on the beach.

Such a bold idea could only come from that special breed known as the "Miami Beach promoter." In this case, two such visionaries announced that November is a swell time to hold the first Arabian Horse Desert Classic.

They're talking about a weeklong jamboree that would include a charity ball, a 26-mile run and—hang onto your cabanas!—a beauty pageant.

The promoters have predicted 100,000 visitors would flock to watch the ponies run on the beach between Fifth and 11th streets. (Presumably, grandstand prices will vary with proximity to the stables, the cheaper seats being downwind.)

The Beach is hoping to attract 2,600 top racehorses from around the world. For authenticity, even the jockeys would be garbed in Arabian-type costumes.

The mere promise of Willie Shoemaker dolled up to look like Valentino is a powerful draw indeed, but toss in a bevy of half-naked beauty queens and you've got class with a capital C.

Not surprisingly, Mayor Alex Daoud has hailed the scheme. The Chamber of Commerce says it will make the media aware that Miami Beach really does have a beach, as its name might suggest.

State agencies are not as keen on the Arabian Classic. Delicate health questions have been raised about the presence of 2,000-plus horses on a public playground.

As one official in Tallahassee put it: "Just like we don't like sanitary landfills in parks, we felt running horses on a beach is incompatible with the beach."

One problem is that the sand on Miami Beach is technically more of a grit—pulverized shells dredged off the ocean floor and packed by bulldozers. If it's too rough or too hot on the hooves, I suppose you could always fit the horses with tiny open-toed sandals.

The other problem is not so simple to solve. As everyone knows, these big animals are not easily housebroken.

Think about it: 2,600 thoroughbreds. Figure 20 pounds of muck per horse, per day, and you get (conservatively) 52,000 pounds. That's 26 tons a day. Now stack that up over a week's time and you're staring at 182 tons—we're talking a Mount Everest of horse puckey.

Skeptics would see cleanup as a messy problem; optimists (and isn't this what the Beach is all about?) would see it as a public-relations challenge.

It's not so big a crisis, really. Tourists on South Florida beaches are used to quick-stepping around all kinds of daunting obstacles, from poisonous jellyfish to gobs of tar, to the occasional human torso. A horse dropping would hardly make them dash for the hotel checkout.

Before allowing such a minor drawback to squelch an otherwise brilliant idea, why not try to turn it around and make something positive?

One obvious solution is to ask the city commissioners themselves to clean up after the horses. They are, after all, vastly experienced in this area.

Another suggestion:

Between races, we stage celebrity "scoop-ups." Line up five famous people, give each a gold shovel and a burlap sack, and tell them to go to it. For the inaugural, we could fly down the entire cast of The New Hollywood Squares.

Picture a shovel-wielding Richard Simmons chasing a pack of sleek Arabian steeds along the shimmering sands of Miami Beach—well, you just can't buy that kind of publicity.

And, for the kiddies, a boisterous "Dodge the Muffin" contest. Epcot, eat your heart out.

Some people are saying that thundering horses don't really fit the image of a tropical beach. Neither do Teamsters, yet they're down here every year with their conventions and loud shirts. Talk about a scary stampede.

With more polished extravaganzas like the Arabian Desert Classic, the future of the Beach is shining. No more cheap gimmicks and crackpot promotions. This is the big time now.

Sophistication with a capital S.

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