PENSACOLA, FL – Victims of another violent shooting at Oakwood Terrace Apartments are suing DM Oakwood Terrace, LLC and Texas-based Marquis Asset Management, Inc., the property management and development companies that ignored security concerns— even after two murders took place at their Pensacola properties in less than a year. Tony Jefferson, Timothy Beck, Jerkavia Morgan, Ladaryl Purifoy, and another bystander were rushed to area hospitals after multiple gunmen sprayed the complex with approximately 40 rounds of ammunition during daylight hours on April 15, 2021. The Witherspoon Law Group filed a $10 million lawsuit on behalf of the injured victims yesterday, seeking damages from a violent crime that could have been prevented if security measures had been beefed up after recent killings at two apartment communities owned and managed by the same entities.
“Where is the accountability? These companies have known about the security issues at both of their Pensacola properties for decades, but they have failed to act,” said Kay Harper Williams, attorney for the shooting victims. “They’ve proved that protecting lives was not their priority.”
Residents are still reeling from the murder of well-known 18-year-old local rapper Frozone, who was shot and killed at the same complex— Oakwood Terrace, just 10 months ago. In December 2020, a 16-year old was shot and killed at Forest Creek Apartments, a nearby complex that is also managed by Marquis Asset Management.
“In less than a year, we have repeated incidents of gun violence with serious injury and death at two properties less than five miles apart. It’s plain to see that there is a pattern of negligence,” said Attorney Williams. “DM Oakwood Terrace and Marquis Asset Management are not honoring their own mission statement, which says that ‘people and doing the right thing are their first priority.’ Clearly, the safety of Oak Terrace and Forrest Creek residents and guests have not been their priority at all. These property owners have not done the right thing, here. They failed to act, even after two young people were murdered.”
Local law enforcement and community leaders have asked for additional cameras, security presence, more lighting, and other safety protocols. Requests have been made for counseling services to help children who were present at Oakwood Terrace apartments during last week’s shooting.
“Our clients have suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of the negligence of Oakwood Terrace’s ownership and management,” said Williams. “There has been a total disregard for the safety and
security of the very people who allow their pockets to be lined with money each month.”
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides rental subsidy funding payments to development and property management companies that own affordable housing units like Oakwood Terrace and Forest Creek Apartments. Marquis Asset Management, Inc., owns several HUD Project-based Section 8 housing units in Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. The HUD Housing Assistance Payment Contracts can serve as lucrative investment properties, allowing real estate, property development and management firms to build empires on the backs of low-income residents while reaping guaranteed financial rewards for their shareholders and stakeholders. In exchange for stable, guaranteed income for property owners, HUD has requirements for safety and security of Section 8 housing units.
“HUD provides written guidance on using direct protective measures and environmental design to decrease the threat of violent crime,” said Williams. “Why did it take a mass shooting that injured five people for Marquis Asset Management and DM Oakwood Terrace representatives to show up and start making changes? This community continues to experience trauma under their negligent management and oversight.”
The Witherspoon Law Group’s initial investigation reveals the following:
- The Oakwood Terrace Apartments complex was purchased by DM Oakwood Terrace, LLC in 2008 and is managed by Texas-based Marquis Asset Management, Inc., whose parent company is Marquis Group.
- Florida law assigns to property owners a legal duty to reasonably provide for the safety of individuals lawfully on their premises, including residents and guests.
- There have been countless acts of violence— including gun violence and murder committed at Oakwood Terrace, and the ownership and management has done little more than continue to collect rent from its residents without much regard at all for their safety and well-being.
- Witnesses state that the shooters entered the complex by driving their vehicle through a broken, open gate.
- Research shows that gun violence is traumatic for children and families. Community members have asked for help with trauma counseling for children who were exposed to the April 15th shooting at Oak Terrace.
“The grossly inadequate security measures at Oakwood Terrace invite crime onto that property. But for the negligence of the owners and operators of Oakwood Terrace, these five, innocent victims would not have been shot,” said Williams. “We will not tolerate property owners whose willful negligence jeopardizes the safety and security of our community while putting profits over people.”