Featured Lead Story Local News Making a Difference News

Lawsuit planned in death of homeless black man-Family attorney to file lawsuit for $525 million

LOS ANGELES — An attorney representing the family of a 21-year-old African-American male fatally shot after a confrontation with a Walgreens security guard in Hollywood earlier this month announced a $525 million lawsuit against the company Dec. 11.

Jonathan Hart was shopping with friends at the Walgreens in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street when he was shot in the neck by a Walgreens security guard around 8 p.m. Dec. 2.

The unidentified security guard claimed that Hart was shoplifting, which led to a dispute with Hart and the guard after Hart picked up a water bottle.

An argument ensued, and the two began pushing one another, according to authorities. As Hart was leaving the store, the guard fired his weapon. According to the Los Angeles coroner’s office, Hart’s cause of death was a gunshot wound to the neck.

Authorities said Hart was only holding a California ID card in his hand.

As attorney Carl Douglas explained how Hart died at a press conference Dec. 11, a woman dressed in black cried into the arms of a man next to her.

“A corporation is never allowed to needlessly endanger a member of the public,” Douglas said. “And when it does … the corporation is responsible for all the injuries it caused.”

With members of Hart’s family standing behind him, Douglas claimed at the press conference that Walgreens has armed security guards at only four locations out of the 54 stores in Los Angeles County.

“Each of these stores are in the black, brown and homeless and LGBT communities,” Douglas said. “We want to know why.”

Douglas called for a boycott of Walgreens until the case is resolved, accusing the company of hiring security guards who racially profiled Hart.

Douglas added that “at a minimum,” the security guard should be charged with manslaughter. He called on Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to file charges soon.

“Walgreens, the blood of Jonathan Hart is on your hands,” Douglas said. “I dare say Jonathan Hart was profiled because he was homeless. He was harassed because he was gay, and he was shot because he was black.”

A statement from Walgreens offered condolences to the Hart family for his killing. The company also said it has fired the security firm working at the store.

“We are committed to providing a safe environment for our employees, patients and customers in the communities we serve,” a statement from the company said. 

In response to why armed guards are in certain stores, a Walgreens statement said the chain contracts “for armed and unarmed security, as well as video surveillance, in our stores based on the public safety needs of each location. We operate in thousands of communities and neighborhoods across the nation and the suggestion that we would inappropriately serve any community is simply false.”

The company stated that “we firmly believe everyone should be welcomed and treated equally in all of our stores.”

A candlelight vigil for Hart was held Dec. 8 at the same Walgreens in Hollywood where Hart was killed, according to media outlets.

Hart aspired to be a model, Douglas said. Known as Sky Young by his friends, Hart was frequently seen on fashion websites, styling clothes and makeup.

Attempts to reach Walgreens for further comment were unsuccessful.

By Michael Livingston

Contributing Writer