St. Petersburg bar should have stopped fatal hour-long beating, lawsuit says

Scott Jenks was beaten to death outside The Sports Bar & Grill in January, police said. A lawsuit blames the bar and the strip mall where it’s located.
Kristoff A. King faces a murder charge in connection with the death of Scott Jenks, 48, whose body was found one January morning in the parking lot of Northgate Center at 1144 94th Ave. N.
Kristoff A. King faces a murder charge in connection with the death of Scott Jenks, 48, whose body was found one January morning in the parking lot of Northgate Center at 1144 94th Ave. N. [ Alachua County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Dec. 31, 2020|Updated Jan. 1, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — Scott Jenks and Kristoff King were regulars at The Sports Bar & Grill, a watering hole in the Northgate Shops strip mall on 94th Avenue North. Bartenders knew them by name, court records say, and they knew each other.

They were both drinking in the early morning hours of Jan. 14, but this time, something may have happened between them. A lawsuit alleges King was “acting in a threatening manner.” Patrons and staff left just after 3 a.m., closing time, police said. Most of them went one way, King and Jenks went another.

More than an hour and a half later, a bar employee found Jenks’ body outside another business in the strip mall. He’d been badly beaten and his pockets were turned out. Police said security footage showed King kicking him for an hour and 19 minutes and Jenks begging for his life.

King was arrested in Alachua County two days later and awaits trial in the Pinellas County jail on a charge of first-degree murder.

But the lawsuit, filed Dec. 18, alleges that The Sports Bar & Grill and Northgate Shops bear responsibility for Jenks’ death, too, because they didn’t intervene in the beating.

The suit was brought by Samantha Ann Montgomery, who has a 9-year-old son with Jenks and represents his estate. She alleges that the bar failed to employ a bouncer, that it was negligent in its training of employees, and that the strip mall — because it leased space to the bar — should have ensured that the premises were safe.

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Nobody answered when the Tampa Bay Times called the bar a number of times Thursday and the phone did not connect to voicemail. The Times could not find contact information for a realty trust that owns the strip mall. A phone for the trustee who received a summons in the lawsuit was out of service.

Stephen Mortimer, the St. Petersburg attorney representing the woman who filed the lawsuit, is on vacation this week, said a woman who answered his office phone.

The lawsuit doesn’t elaborate on the “threatening manner” King showed and court records, including a note about interviews with at least one bartender, don’t mention a conflict inside the bar. It was unclear whether bar employees witnessed the beating or whether the bar typically has a bouncer or doorman.

King faces the death penalty if he’s convicted of first-degree murder. Court records show the charge was brought under Florida’s hate crime statute after police said surveillance video showed King, who is Black, calling Jenks a “white mother f---er.”

King’s case is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 12, court records show. He has pleaded not guilty, and in a motion to suppress evidence — strands of his hair found in Jenks’ hand — he wrote that he “was the actual victim in the instance, not the culprate (sic).”

His public defenders have also filed motions to dismiss some of his statements, alleging King’s due process was violated when the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office suspended in-person visitation at the jail during the coronavirus pandemic, keeping out even his attorneys.

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King, a native of the Bahamas, also has a hold from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to court records.