Loved ones who convened for a vigil Tuesday outside the Hollywood Walgreens where a security guard killed a man accused of shoplifting allege that the 21-year-old was shot in the back and had originally intended to pay for his items.
Jonathan Hart did get into an physical fight with the guard who shot him inside the store on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street late Sunday night, but before that he had been headed to a register to pay for the items he was carrying, his friend Aaliyah Haughto, who was with him that night, told KTLA Monday.
"A lot of awful words were exchanged, and we were then followed to the end of the store to complete our transaction," Haughto said. "An altercation broke out again, scuffle happened, shoves were met."
Haughto alleges that the security guard made another advance following that clash, which prompted Hart to head for the exit.
Then, "the security guard pulled out his weapon and fired," shooting him in the back, she said.
Coroner's officials have yet to complete an autopsy. Investigators have said there was a verbal argument that turned physical prior to shooting, and that Hart was a shoplifting suspect.
The victim's mother, Psychesia Hart, is a security guard herself. She sharply criticized the guard's handling of the situation and said he was not following protocol.
"This mistake of a human being, because he had a badge and a gun, felt like he had every right to pull a weapon on my child," she told KTLA. "First off, you're security. Our job as security officers: observe and report. But don't pull no gun on nobody and shoot them in the back. What kind of coward are you?"
Jonathan was rushed to the hospital following the incident and died a short time later.
Walgreens issued a statement Tuesday, saying the company was "deeply concerned about this incident and the loss of life" and is "gathering facts and fully cooperating with law enforcement."
A memorial was erected on Vine Street bearing photos of the 21-year-old and adorned with candles spelling "Sky," the name those close to him knew him by.
Those assembled called for justice for Jonathan.
"I feel like it should never have happened that way," said his cousin Danielle Hart. "It could've been prevented."
She described her cousin as someone who was kind and always smiled. His friend Melanie Bryant said, "He was a beautiful spirit; he was a beautiful human being."
Another friend, Malasha Tietjen, said the guard's actions were wrong regardless of whether Jonathan was shoplifting or not.
"If he was or not, the main point is you shouldn't shoot people for little stuff like that," Tietjen said.
The incident remains under investigation.