LA security guard charged with murder in pharmacy shooting

January 1, 2019
This photo from video provided by KABC-TV shows Donald Vincent Ciota II in a Los Angeles courtroom, Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. Los Angeles County prosecutors say Ciota, a pharmacy security guard, has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a man he suspected of shoplifting. The shooting occurred Dec. 2, 2018, at a Walgreens at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. (KABC-TV via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A store security guard was charged Monday with murder in the fatal shooting of a man he suspected of shoplifting at a Los Angeles pharmacy, prosecutors said.

Donald Vincent Ciota, 28, was scheduled for arraignment Jan. 2 on the murder count and an allegation of using a firearm as a deadly and dangerous weapon.

Ciota confronted Jonathan Hart on Dec. 2 inside the pharmacy on Sunset and Vine and a physical altercation ensued, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.

Ciota pulled a firearm and shot the 21-year-old in the back as he ran away, prosecutors alleged.

Family attorney Carl Douglas said Hart was unarmed and was not shoplifting the night he was killed. Douglas claimed Hart was the victim of profiling because he was homeless, harassed because he was gay and “shot, because he was black.”

The family was “heartened” that prosecutors charged Ciota, the attorney said at a Monday press conference.

Douglas said Hart’s family is planning to file a $525 million wrongful-death suit against Walgreens. He said the family is calling for a boycott of Walgreens until the company removes armed guards from its stores.

“The death of Jonathan Hart has left blood on the hands of executives of Walgreens,” Douglas said.

Mark Geragos, Ciota’s attorney, said he believed his client will be vindicated.

“There is no way in the world this should be a murder case,” Geragos told reporters. “If this were a police officer, they would be lauding him let alone filing murder charges. It’s ridiculous. He was assaulted, he defended himself.”

Walgreens said it continues to cooperate with authorities and has extended its condolences to Hart’s family.

“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 said in a statement.

Ciota’s bail was set at $3 million. If convicted as charged, he faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison.

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