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California

Security guard charged with murder in Hollywood Walgreens shooting

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Jonathan Hart, a 21-year-old who police say was shot and killed by a security guard earlier this month in Hollywood.

A security guard who police say shot and killed a 21-year-old man earlier this month in Hollywood was charged with murder by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office Monday.

Donald Vincent Ciota, 28, of Covina faces one count of murder with an allegation that he used a firearm as a deadly weapon. Ciota shot and killed Jonathan Hart inside a Walgreens at Vine Street and Sunset Boulevard on Dec. 2, authorities said.

Ciota suspected Hart of shoplifting, and the two got into a physical altercation. Ciota pulled his firearm and fatally shot Hart in the back as he ran away, prosecutors said.

Hart died from a gunshot wound to the neck, according to a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

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Family attorney Carl Douglas said Hart was unarmed and was not shoplifting that night. Detectives told family members that Hart had a California ID card in his hand at the time of his death.

The attorney said Hart had gotten into a confrontation earlier that night with the same security guard and had spoken with the store manager before continuing to shop.

Douglas said Monday that Hart’s family was “heartened and encouraged” that Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s office has charged Ciota.

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

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“Walgreens, the blood of Jonathan Hart is on your hands,” Douglas said earlier this month.

Hart was profiled, harassed and ultimately shot because he was a homeless, gay black man, the lawyer said.

A company spokesman said previously that Walgreens had fired the security firm that worked at the store and is cooperating with police.

“We are committed to providing a safe environment for our employees, patients and customers in the communities we serve,” spokesman Phil Caruso said earlier this month. “We contract for armed and unarmed security, as well as video surveillance, in our stores based on the public safety needs of each location.”

Ciota is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, according to a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. His bail is set at $3 million. If convicted as charged, he faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison.

javier.panzar@latimes.com

@jpanzar


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