May 8, 2019 at 2:13 pm PST | by Karen Ocamb
Lawsuit filed over fatal shooting of young black homeless gay man

Jonathan Hart (Photo courtesy Douglas Hicks Law)

Attorneys representing Jonathan Hart’s twin sister Psykyssyanna Hart filed a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit on May 7 in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Walgreens, American Protection Group, S.E.B. Security Services, and Donald Vincent Ciota II of Covina for the Dec. 2, 2018 shooting death of the 21-year-old black gay homeless man.

The lawsuit describes how Hart, also known as Sky Young, was essentially abandoned by his mother at age 11 and wound up homeless at 21. On Dec. 2, 2018, he and two friends went into a Walgreens in Hollywood and started shopping. The suit alleges that armed security guard Donald Ciota started hassling them, apparently assuming they were intent on shoplifting, though the lawsuit says they were innocent of the charge. Hart complained to the Walgreens employees, but nothing happened. At some point, the lawsuit says, Ciota pulled his weapon, went into a crouched position and yelled “Freeze!” Hart started running to escape through an aisle, his California ID in hand, when Ciota opened fire, shooting Hart in the neck. Ciota apparently then pronounced Hart dead, even though he was still alive. When help finally arrived, Hart was taken to Cedars-Sinai where he was operated on but eventually died.

Ciota is facing one count of murder with an allegation that he used a firearm as a deadly and dangerous weapon, according to a press release. Hart’s sister and his estate are now faced with huge medical bills, as well as funeral expenses and other costs she can’t cover. 

“Walgreens is responsible for the death of Jonathan Hart because of the despicable choices that they made to place profits over safety,” attorney Carl Douglas said at a news conference. “Walgreens owns and operates more than 9,500 retail stores in the United States. Over 640 retail stores in California and over 54 stores in Los Angeles County, but the lawsuit alleges that in their senseless pursuit of profits over the safety of its millions of customers, Walgreens has chosen to despicably place armed security guards in several of its stores” that specifically serve predominantly African American and Hispanic customers.

“I really miss my brother,” said Psykyssyanna Hart, crying at the news conference. “Everyday I have to look at this necklace and carry him around and I don’t want him in this position.  I want him here. Our birthday passed — the first birthday without him and I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”

“We intend to fight to the finish to make sure that the life and death of Jonathan Hart will not have been in vain,” Douglas said.  

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