An LA woman is suing Walgreens after a security guard shot her brother. He says the shooting victim was attempting to shoplift, but she says he was the victim of homophobia and racial profiling.
The lawsuit, which was filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 26, says that Jonathan Hart, who was in his early 20s, was “maliciously, wrongfully, intentionally, negligently and/or carelessly” shot in the back of his neck and killed in December of 2018 by Walgreens security guard Donald Vincent Ciota II. That said, Ciota isn’t the only person named on the lawsuit. He’s joined by Walgreens and two security companies that work with Walgreens.
According to NBC New Los Angeles, 28-year-old Ciota says Hart and two friends were inside one of the chain’s stores when the security guard confronted him. He believed Hart and his friends to be stealing. Hart and the guard then shoved each other once before Hart attempted to run. Ciota then pulled out his gun and shot the fleeing Hart. Carl Douglas, who’s representing Hart’s family, says Hart was rushed to the hospital but soon died.
The lawsuit filed by Hart’s sister Psykssyanna Hart denies that Hart stole anything. In addition, there’s no report of Hart having anything on his person.
The lawsuit also states that Hart and his friend had complained to a Walgreens employee prior to the shooting. They say Ciota had an “aggressive and hostile manner” towards them. The lawsuit then says that Ciota, who was equipped with a taser and a gun, chose to pull out his gun, yell “freeze,” and fire at Hart.
“Jonathan committed no crime or other act against defendant Ciota, or any other person, to justify the use of deadly force against him. He was unarmed and did nothing to cause defendant Ciota to believe he was confronting an imminent threat to his life or anyone else’s life,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit accuses Walgreens of creating an unsafe environment by staffing armed guards in stores located in Black and Latino communities or where there are high rates of homelessness.
Walgreens immediately terminated the security company after the violent incident. But, they reacted to these allegations of racial profiling and discrimination by releasing a statement saying they are “false and contrary to our deep commitment to inclusive diversity.”
“As we stated at the time this tragic incident occurred, we immediately terminated the security company that employed the guard involved,” the company said. “We are fully committed to providing a safe environment for our employees and customers in the communities we serve.”
As for Ciota, he was charged in January with one count of murder. He is being defended by Mark Geragos, who has represented celebrities such as Winona Ryder and Michael Jackson. While Ciota pleaded not guilty during a court appearance, he is still being held at a Los Angeles jail on $3 million bail. He’s expected to return to LA County Court on May 22, according to KTLA.