Family of deceased condo resident suing Orlando condo association
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
This horrific report follows several similar ones in recent years. It turns out that association-governed communities are not necessarily safe havens from crime, despite the fact that many communities advertise gated entries and private security staff. And, in fact, in some cases, a private security guard is responsible for the assault of a community’s resident.
In the case of one Orlando condo association, Uptown Place Apartments, security guard Stephen Duxbury awaits trail for the rape and murder of 27 year old Sasha Samsudean in 2015. According to reports, every young woman’s worst nightmare unfolded on the night Duxbury allegedly hacked the lock on her unit’s door, rousing her from sleep to attack her.
Orlando murder victim’s family sues Uptown Place condos, lock company
Sasha Samsudean, 27, killed by apartment security guard, police say
By Emilee Speck – Digital journalist
Posted: 4:46 PM, May 02, 2017
Updated: 5:24 PM, May 02, 2017
ORLANDO, Fla. – The parents of a 27-year-old Orlando woman, who police said was killed in her condo in 2015 by the complex security guard, is suing Uptown Place Condominiums, the company that made the lock on the victim’s door and the security company that hired the suspect, according to court records obtained by News 6.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in Ninth Judicial Circuit Court by lawyers for Sasha Samsudean’s parents, Tara and Ken Samsudean.
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Samsudean was found at on Oct. 17 the day after she came home from a night out with friends.
The Samsudeans allege that Stephen Duxbury, who is accused of raping and killing their daughter, was able to access her apartment by hacking the Kwikset digital deadbolt after “running internet searches on his smartphone” minutes before Sasha was killed, according to court records.
The security risks of the locks were reported by Wired magazine in 2013.
Kwikset redesigned the SmartKey deadbolt in January 2016 after denying that there were any vulnerabilities in the locks.
The Uptown Place Condominium Association, Condominium Concepts Management Inc., All American Investigators and Security LLC, Vital Security Investigations and Spectrum Brands Inc. are also named as defendants in the complaint, along with lock maker Kwikset Corp.
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In the wake of this tragic event, several important issues are raised:
1. Despite the outward appearance that Uptown Place is a traditional apartment complex, it is actually a condominium association where each unit is separately owned. The association happens to be set up a rental community. Units are owned as investments by absentee landlords, who pay monthly assessments to a management company. (A copy of condominium declarations filed in 2006 can be viewed here.)
It is important to recognize that condo owners are responsible for the safety of their tenants, and financially liable for personal injury or loss of life. That is made abundantly clear now that Samsudean’s parents are suing Uptown Place Condominium Association.
2. What happened at Uptown Place makes yet another case against the use of private security guards to “protect” residents of association-governed housing. The private security industry is virtually unregulated, which probably explains how Vital Security was able to hire Duxbury, despite his criminal history.
See reference section below for a shocking report of the lack of background checks and vetting of security guards, many of whom are armed guards. Although the report stresses misuse of firearms by armed guards, the reader should note that Samsudean died by strangulation, not gunfire.
According to reports, Duxbury was employed by Vital Security and Investigations of Florida.
3. Was there no background check for security guards by the management company or the condo association?
Looking at Condominium Concepts’ website, (listing as one of company’s founders and current CEO, Daryls A. Walker), describes the organization:
Condominium Concepts Management, Inc. is an independent entity, was founded in 2000 as an expansion of First Communities Management, a 30 year old well respected asset management company. Since then, Condominium Concepts Management, Inc. has grown throughout the southeast serving four states, which include, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Presently Condominium Concepts Management, Inc. works with more than 200 condominium, town home, single family, and apartment communities and employs over 350 professionals.
Its condominium services include “Negotiations of all contracts; including, insurance, contract services, association licenses, etc.” According to its FAQ page,”The management company is responsible for responding to all life/safety and property damage emergencies.”
Given the history of resident complaints regarding Duxbury, it is no surprise that Condominium Concepts LLC is a named defendant in the lawsuit.
4. While policy makers and most advocacy groups tend to focus on the rights of homeowners in association-governed housing, they often overlook the fact that a growing percentage of residents are tenants, not owners. At Uptown Place, presumably nearly all the residents are tenants, not owners. Tenants, of course, have no control over secutiy policy for the association. In this case, management mistakes that led to the hiring of Duxbury led to a violent attack and loss of life, a tragedy that could have been prevented.
While the data does not state the number of guards who are armed, Shoshana Walter, public safety reporter at the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), says the expected norms of policing simply don’t apply to the security guard industry.
“The security industry is very different from the law enforcement profession,” says Walters. “They have limited powers, they don’t have the same ability to detain or arrest, or as it relates to search and seizures. But they’re often taking on the same types of roles as law enforcement officers.”
But Walters says guards often have a small fraction of the training that police officers usually get. In the state of California, for example, a police officer is required to get a minimum of 600 hours of training — an armed security guard gets about 54 hours.
“The difference there is huge,” she says.
In addition to training, regulations regarding background checks for armed guards also vary widely by state.
“We found that 27 states are not checking armed guard applicants through the prohibited possessor database — that’s a database of people who are prohibited by federal law from possessing guns,” Walter says.
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