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Family members of Walgreens shooting victim file suits

LOS ANGELES — The twin sister of a 20-year-old man allegedly shot and killed by a security guard who worked at a Walgreens store in Hollywood in December is suing the drug store chain.

Psykssyanna Hart, sibling of Jonathan Hart, brought the complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 25, alleging negligence, assault and battery and a violation of civil rights.

The siblings’ mother, Psychesia Hart, filed a similar suit against Walgreens April 24. But the second suit states that Hart’s mother was not involved in much of the young man’s life.

“This lawsuit concerns the despicable conduct of Walgreens, a multibillion-dollar corporation, whose executive board placed Walgreens interests in maximizing the corporation’s profits above the safety of innocent consumers shopping at their stores,” the suit alleges.

It also alleges Walgreens was negligent in the screening, hiring and training of security guards hired through third-party companies. The plaintiff seeks unspecified damages.

Walgreens released a statement after the first suit was filed. 

“As we have stated from the beginning, we immediately terminated the security company that employed the guard involved in this tragic incident,” the statement read. “We are fully committed to providing a safe environment for our employees and customers in the communities we serve. Any suggestion of racial profiling or discrimination is simply false and contrary to our deep commitment to inclusive diversity.”

The suit alleges that Hart was shot and killed by guard Donald Ciota about 8 p.m. Dec. 2 as Hart tried to leave the store after falsely being accused of shoplifting. Hart was targeted because he was black and gay, the suit states.

Hart “never received a telephone call, text message, email message, birthday card or Christmas card from his natural mother prior to his 18th birthday,” the new suit states. “This failure to provide support or to communicate with Jonathan for the prescribed period is presumptive evidence of the natural mother’s intent to abandon Jonathan.”

Co-defendants in the new suit with Walgreens are Ciota, American Protection Group Inc. and S.E.B. Services, two companies that provide security guards to Walgreens.

Walgreens used armed security guards at a small number of its stores depending on the racial background of its customers, the new suit alleges. Many patrons at the Hollywood store are black, gay and homeless, according to the new suit.

The night of the shooting, Hart and the friends with him complained to a Walgreens cashier and other employees that Ciota was harassing them even though none of them had shoplifted or done anything else wrong, the suit states. The other employees did nothing, the new suit states.

Ciota held his gun with both hands and shot Hart in the back of the neck as the decedent was leaving the store, the new suit states. Ciota and the other Walgreens employees waited several minutes before calling for medical aid for Hart and the man died hours later at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the new suit states.

Hart’s mother’s lawsuit cited many of the same allegations as the sister’s suit.

“My son was a gentle, loving man who was a community activist within the LGBT and homeless communities,” his mother said in a prepared statement.

“His 22nd birthday was [April 22] and he should be here celebrating and I should not be grieving and filing a wrongful death lawsuit.”

Hart advocated for the rights of everyone and especially those who suffer discrimination and harassment because of their orientation, color and homelessness, his mother said.

Wave Wire Reports