(EDGE) The former security guard whom a lawyer accused of "profiling" a homeless man, "harass[ing]" him "because he was gay," and then shooting him in the back as he was running away "because he was black" has now been charged with murder in the case, reports NBC Los Angeles.
The report identified the security guard as Donald Vincent Ciota II and said that his bond has been set at the sum of $3 million. The shooting occurred Dec. 2 at a Walgreens store located at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, California. 21-year-old Jonathan Hart suffered a gunshot wound to the back of the neck and died.
As EDGE reported at the time, Ciota claimed that Hart was shoplifting, and said that Hart had initiated a physical altercation. Carl Douglas, who was part of OJ Simpson's legal defense at Simposon's 1995 murder trial, and is representing Hart's family in a $525 suit against Walgreen's, denied this, saying, "John was not shoplifting when he was shot."
Walgreens issued a statement in which the company offered its "condolences" to the Hart family, and said it had discontinued its use of the security company Ciota worked for. The statement from Walgreens also said that the company would "continue to fully cooperate in the ongoing police investigation."
Video at NBC Los Angeles reported that Ciota has been charged with second-degree murder and noted that prosecutors rarely file such charges against security guards, much as it is uncommon for police officers to be so charged. The video also noted the Ciota is an Army veteran and had been a military police officer.
Ciota is being represented by attorney Mark Geragos, who has defended celebrities, including Michael Jackson when the singer was on trial over charges of sexually assaulting a minor. "He was assaulted," Geragos told the media. "He defended himself, And the idea of keeping him... in jail on $3 million bail is ridiculous."
Both sides anticipate that security video will bolster their case.
Reporting on the murder charge against Ciota, UK newspaper the Daily Mail said that Hart allegedly attempted to shoplift an item priced at $2.99. The newspaper also pointed out that Hart was not armed, and said that according to Hart's family, he suffered from mental illness.
At a Dec. 11 media conference, Douglas described a scenario for how he claimed the deadly incident unfolded, the Daily Mail noted.
"The guard feels the man push him one time," Douglas narrated. "The guard pushes the man back one time. The guard watches as the man turns to run toward the back door. The guard raises his gun and points at the man.
"The guard says, 'Freeze,' as the man travels toward the door," Douglas continued. "The guard fires one shot, striking the man in the back of the neck."
The Daily Mail also noted that Hart's mother Psychesia Hart, is a security guard in her own right. Ms. Hart talked to the press about the incident, claiming that security guards are not supposed to fire their weapons at people under the circumstances that allegedly took place.
"First off, you're security," Ms. Hart said. Our job as security officers: observe and report. But don't pull no gun on nobody and shoot them in the back."
Douglas responded to the news of the murder charge, saying, "We are heartened that justice will be on the way," NBC Los Angeles reported.