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How much authority does a security guard have? | News

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How much authority does a security guard have?

ATLANTA -- Two Atlanta are teens dead and their families are calling for answers. The deaths happened within three months of each other: one in south Atlanta, the other in DeKalb County. But one commonality unites them: both teens died at the hand of a security guard.

On New Years' Eve, 17-year-old Canard Arnold was shot and killed by a security guard near an apartment complex in south Atlanta. On March 24th, Ervin Jefferson was killed by two security guards near a DeKalb apartment complex.

RELATED | Unarmed teen shot, killed by security guards
MORE | Ervin Jefferson's father speaks out

In both cases, the guards maintain the teens were posing a threat. After investigating, Atlanta police cleared the guard involved in the first incident, Christopher Hambrick.

In the second incident, guards Curtis Scott and Gary Jackson have been charged with impersonating an officer, but not murder.

But the cases raise an interesting question: how much authority does a security guard have?

When it comes to using deadly force, Georgia law grants paid guards the same authority as any other civilian. They are authorized by the "Stand Your Ground" law to use deadly force to protect themselves, someone else or property against a deadly threat.

The law has come under nationwide scrutiny in recent weeks; Florida's version of the law prevents neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman from being arrested in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is accused of shooting and killing the unarmed teenager last month. He claims he shot in self-defense.

RELATED | Trayvon Martin's death renews debate over Stand Your Ground law

Greg Norred, CEO of Norred and Associates, has spent 30 years running the security guard business. He says the role of a guard is to deter crime, not aggressively pursue criminals.

"To leave [the property they are guarding] to go down the street to enforce the law on the street is beyond the realm of what they should be doing," he said.

"If they're doing it to save the life of someone or to prevent some sort of aggravated crime, then they should do it, just like any other citizen should," he added. "In any other situation, pick up the phone and call 911."

He says both armed and unarmed guards must complete training, but those carrying guns are required to complete an additional 16 hours of training, submit to a background check and re-test every two years to maintain their weapon certification.

Unless required by his clients, however, Norred said he does not give his guards weapons. He says it creates a false sense of authority and is an increased liability.

"It's all about selection and training," he said. "I think some agencies might be too quick to grab a guy off the street, get him licensed, give him a gun and get that post filled. There should be a little bit more process involved."

An attorney for the Arnold family says the security guard who killed their son was an employee of Shepperson Security, the same company involved in last month's deadly DeKalb County shooting.

Repeated calls to the company have gone unreturned.


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