The sister of a 21-year-old Black man from California who was fatally shot by a Walgreens security guard after he was accused of shoplifting says her brother was targeted because he was gay and Black.
In December 2018, Jonathan Hart was in a Hollywood Walgreens with two friends when armed guard Donald Vincent Ciota II, 28, confronted the group because he thought Hart was shoplifting, reported KTLA.
Hart’s friend Aaliyah Haughto, who was with him at the time, said a scuffle occurred between Hart and Ciota.
"A lot of awful words were exchanged, and we were then followed to the end of the store to complete our transaction," Haughto told KTLA. "An altercation broke out again, scuffle happened, shoves were met."
Once Hart attempted to exit the store, Ciota pulled out a gun and shot Hart, hitting him once in the back of his neck.
He died hours later at the hospital.
Vigils and protests were held for Hart after news of the shooting broke.
Ciota was charged in January 2019 with one count of murder and he pleaded not guilty later that month, reported NBC Los Angeles. Records show Ciota is being held at a Los Angeles jail on $3 million bail.
Now, Hart’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Walgreens.
The complaint not only denies Hart was shoplifting but also accuses Ciota of targeting Hart because of his race and sexual orientation.
According to the lawsuit, Hart and his friends had allegedly complained to a Walgreens employee prior to the shooting about Ciota's "aggressive and hostile manner."
"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 suit, filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 26, states Jonathan Hart was "maliciously, wrongfully, intentionally, negligently and/or carelessly" shot in the back of his neck and killed in December 2018 by, reported NBC News.
Ciota, Walgreens and two security companies that work with the store chain are named in the suit, Hart's sister, Psykssyanna Hart, told KTLA.
Carl Douglas, an attorney for Hart’s family, said the company is completely at fault for the shooting.
"Walgreens is responsible for the death of Jonathan Hart because of the despicable choices they made to place profits over safety," Douglas told KTLA.
The suit also accuses Walgreens of staffing armed guards in stores located in predominantly Black neighborhoods.
On May 7, Walgreens released a statement saying the allegation the company unfairly targets minorities is "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 in a statement to NBC News. "We are fully committed to providing a safe environment for our employees and customers in the communities we serve."
Although Hart's sister has not specified the total damages the family seeks, in December they said they would seek close to $525 million.