Security guard charged with murder in Hollywood Walgreens shooting

A security guard at a Hollywood Walgreens was charged Monday with murder in the killing of a suspected shoplifter, the District Attorney's Office announced Monday.

Donald Vincent Ciota, 28, of Covina faces one count of murder with an allegation that he used a firearm as a deadly and dangerous weapon in the Dec. 2 killing of 21-year-old Jonathan Hart.

He was being held on $3 million bail and expected to be arraigned in a downtown courtroom on Monday.

Prosecutors said Ciota confronted Hart inside the Walgreens at Sunset and Vine in an alleged shoplifting incident, which then escalated into a physical altercation.

Ciota then pulled out his firearm and is alleged to have fatally shot Hart in the back as he ran away, prosecutors added.

Hart was taken to a hospital, where he later died. Police confirmed Hart did not have a weapon.

If convicted as charged, Ciota faces a possible maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison, prosecutors said.

An attorney for Hart's family alleged that he was targeted because he was black and gay and questioned why Walgreens only has armed security guards at four stores in the Los Angeles area.

"Each of these stores are in the black, brown and homeless and LGBT communities, and we want to know why,'' Attorney Carl Douglas said during a news conference Dec. 11.

Douglas also announced a $525 million wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the family against the company.

"I dare say, Jonathan Hart was profiled because he was homeless. He was harassed because he was gay and he was shot because he was black," Douglas said.

Walgreens issued a statement in response saying the company has "extended our deepest and most sincere condolences'' to Hart's family, and noted that as a result of the shooting, "we immediately terminated the security company.''

"We are committed to providing a safe environment for our employees, patients and customers in the communities we serve,'' according to the company. "We contract for armed and unarmed security, as well as video surveillance, in our stores based on the public safety needs of each location. We operate in thousands of communities and neighborhoods across the nation and the suggestion that we would inappropriately serve any community is simply false. We firmly believe everyone should be welcomed and treated equally in all of our stores.''

City News Service contributed to this report.