Orlando FL April 1 2017 More than a dozen security guards accused of abusing the badge could end up in cuffs after a raid at an extended stay motel on Orange Blossom Trail.
Incident reports describe security guards busting into rooms at the Great Value Suites and tossing items around, and deputies are looking into armed trespassing charges.
But the security company and motel management said they were within their rights, and that it's deputies who did not handle the raid appropriately and turned a blind eye to drugs and guns.
There are two ongoing investigations into the raid.
Great Value Suites management and the security company it hired, Freeman Security, said they may take legal recourse against the sheriff's office over the case.
Meanwhile, deputies and the state agency that monitors security guard licenses are also investigating and called the raids “very concerning.”
The people who lived there said the raids were invasive.
It's disturbing “to have the same guys who (are) supposed to be so nice and supposed to protect us, come in and degrade us like that,” said motel guest Shavonte Johnson.
Johnson lived at the motel with his pregnant wife, Aujana Thomas, for months.
They moved out Friday, one week after they said security hired by Great Value Suites burst into their room.
“They were geared up though, like they were the SWAT team, they were geared up. That's what you would think they were, but when you look at them it says security,” said Thomas.
The property manager said he authorized the late-night security sweep.
“They're doing illegal stuff in the rooms, it's not OK,” said Leonardo Guzman.
He said the security guards collected illegal drugs and called 911.
But so did the people living there, who said they initially thought it was law enforcement knocking on their doors.
“The police can't even come in without a warrant so why would security guards be able to do it?,” said Thomas.
Deputies are looking into that now.
They filed reports against 13 security guards, identifying several violations of "armed trespassing to a dwelling" and "trespassing in dwelling.”
Darren Freeman, who owns Freeman Security, advertises as "The next best thing to having the police."
“The sheriff, to come here and go into a room, they have to have a warrant,” he said. “We don't have to have a warrant. This is private property we are in charge of.”
He stands by his security guards, who are under investigation for criminal charges.
He said they collected drugs, and it's deputies who weren't doing their job, because they didn't seize any of it.
“Nobody went to jail. That kind of amazed me, too,” he said.
Freeman said deputies trespassed his security officers from the property, but the security guards are still working there because Freeman said the guards are within their rights.