Murder Charges Dropped Against Two Poker Players in Christmas Night Casino Killing

Written by:
Published on:

  • Victim was aggressor according to prosecutors
  • Former Army Ranger Fernando Duarte was shot 13 times outside casino by one of two poker players he reportedly threatened
  • High on cocaine and with blood alcohol twice the legal limit according to reports from the scene, Duarte was alleged to have made hand gestures suggesting he had weapon
  • “I am going to f**k you up and kill you,” Duarte snarled after an initial encounter in trying to block the two men’s exit from casino parking lot
  • It was the Miccosukee Police Dept’s first recorded homicide

Two poker players accused of killing former Army Ranger Fernando Duarte outside a Miami area Tribal casino claim the victim was the aggressor and newly presented evidence appears to support this notion, according to the Miami Herald.

The 33-year-old victim walked outside the Miccosukee Casino after winning a prize from a slot machine where he was gunned down in the parking lot.

Officials later charged 25-year-old Kenin Bailey and 25-year-old Mikey Lenard in the case with Bailey the alleged shooter.  He reportedly shot Duarte while driving by him with Lenard behind the wheel, hitting the victim in the leg and wrist.

Both men were initially charged with first degree murder in the case.

Prosecutors on Wednesday announced they would be dropping the murder charges against both men.

The state’s review of witness accounts, medical evidence and surveillance video suggested the two men acted out of self-defense.

The prosecutors noted that Duarte was extremely drunk (blood alcohol was double the legal limit for driving), likely high on cocaine and aggressive, though they contend unarmed. 

The incident actually started inside the casino, based on a gathering of information from eye witnesses including a poker dealer. Duarte and a friend cursed at the two black men while at the poker table, calling them n***ers.  Security had been called to diffuse the matter.

Duarte later engaged the two men in the parking lot during what was believed to have been a chance encounter and when Bailey and Lenard attempted to drive away, Duarte twice maneuvered his car in such a way to block their exit.

“I am going to f**k you up and kill you,” Duarte snarled after the first stop, getting out of his car and making a hand gesture like a gun, Lenard later recalled.

Bailey and Lenard again tried to flee but were blocked by Duarte, who then proceeded to get out of his car and charge towards the two men.  Bailey then shot Duarte 13 times, two of which were fatal. 

This was the first homicide arrest ever recorded by the 600 Member Miccosukee police department.

Between Duarte’s threats, hand gestures and the possibility that he might have been reaching for a weapon, Bailey was justified in using deadly force, prosecutors concluded.

 “Bailey could have reasonably believed that he and Lenard’s life was in danger and that a firearm may be used against them,” prosecutor Gail Levine wrote in her final report on the case.

“I think it was pretty evident that the use of force in this case was justifiable,” said Peter Heller, the defense attorney for Bailey.

In a strange twist, it turns out that Duarte was under federal investigation on suspicion of dealing drugs. 

The Herald noted the contentious relationship between federal authorities and the Miccosukee police over the years:

From suicides to drugs overdoses, tribal police detectives have investigated many deaths at the casino over the years — but never a shooting like what happened Christmas night.

“Had Miccosukee police utilized the services of the extensive experience of the Miami-Dade homicide bureau, perhaps an arrest could have been avoided,” said Heller, the defense lawyer. “A more thorough investigation should have been undertaken before a knee-jerk arrest took place.”

Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law has been cited as reason enough not to pursue the case any further, regardless of what jurisdiction the shooting occurred in.

- Gilbert Horowitz,