Woman Says Walgreens Security Guard Killed Her Twin Brother In Alleged Shoplifting Incident Because He Was Black And Gay
The 21-year-old victim, Jonathan Hart, was a Black gay man.
The family of a young man shot and killed by a Walgreens security guard is suing the corporation and her brother's alleged killer, citing racism and homophobia as contributing factors.
NBC News reports Jonathan Hart, also known by Sky Young, was shopping at the pharmacy chain last December when he was shot and killed by its security officer, Donald Vincent Ciota II.
According to NBC Los Angeles, the December 2 tragedy occurred after Ciota, 28, reportedly accosted Hart and two of his friends and accused them of shoplifting from the Hollywood location. Young and Ciota allegedly got into a scuffle following an argument between the two.
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As reported, Ciota, who was in possession of both a Taser and a gun, pulled out his gun as Young and his friends walked toward the exit. According to reports, he shot the 21-year-old in his neck as he attempted to flee the confrontation.
Young, who was homeless at the time, did not survive complications from the wound and died hours later in the hospital.
The former Walgreens watchman was arrested and charged with one count of murder and pleaded not guilty in February. If he is found guilty, Ciolta will face50 years to life in prison. He is currently being held on $3 million bond.
Psykssyanna Hart, Young's twin sister, indicates Ciota, Walgreens and two contracted security companies, American Protection Group and S.E.B. Security Services, as defendants in the case.
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"We allege that the blood of Jonathan Hart is on the hands of the executives at Walgreens," said the family's attorney, famed OJ Simpson's defense teammate Carl Douglas during the public presser.
Hart's wrongful death lawsuit insists that Young and his friends were not stealing from the establishment but were targeted for being Black, gay and homeless. The petition, filed on April 26, also points toward a complaint to a Walgreens employee regarding their alleged aggressor's "hostile manner" prior to the shooting.
"Jonathan Hart was unarmed," said Douglas following Ciota's arraignment. "He was a homeless, gay, Black man who was profiled we say because he was homeless, who was harassed we say because he was gay and who was shot we say because he was Black."
"It's clear that he did not pose a deadly threat to anyone," he continued.
The suit also blames Walgreens for hiring patrollers with deadly weapons and accuses the medicinal store chain of disproportionately staffing them within Black and Hispanic neighborhoods or areas suffering from low-income.
Walgreens, who issued a statement of condolences to the Hart family, noted that they "immediately terminated the security company" following the altercation. However, they also stated they disagree with the family's lawsuit, stating that any indication of racial and sex-related discrimination by their establishment is "false and contrary to our deep commitment to inclusive diversity."
Mark Geragos, known for working high-profile cases such as Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder, is representing the imprisoned defendant. He claims the facts of the case "do not support a murder case" and believes it will be thrown out of court. The case is expected to return to the Los Angeles County Court on May 22, KTLA reports.
Hart's team did not disclose the amount being sought in damages at the filing but in December it was announced they would seek close to $525 million.
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