The families of three people killed last Christmas Eve in the parking lot of a Southern California shopping center are suing the mall, claiming it failed to provide sufficient lighting and monitoring security cameras in the area to keep patrons safe.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday against Westfield, LLC accuses the Westfield Mission Valley mall of negligence in the deaths of Gianni Belvedere, Salvatore Belvedere and Ilona Flint.
Salvatore and Flint were shot while sitting in a car in the mall’s parking lot on Dec. 24, 2013. Gianni’s body was found Riverside, 100 miles north of San Deigo, on Jan. 17, 2014, inside the trunk of his own car. The lawsuit alleges Gianni was also shot on the mall premises.
In the suit, the Belvedere’s parents Leonard and Grace and Flint’s mother Inga Jones accuse the mall of failing to keep its security cameras working during the busy holiday season.
Westfield should have anticipated possible crimes happening in the parking lot, which was too dark to be kept safe, the lawsuit says.
“Keeping the cameras in operating condition was a simple measure that would have protected the decedents,” the complaint says.
The plaintiffs claim the three killed, as well as others, depended on the cameras for a sense of security, expecting mall security to be monitoring the lot. That expectation affected their actions, the complaint says.
According to the lawsuit, security personnel were not physically inspecting the parking lot frequently enough to ward off criminals.
“In short, defendants failed to use reasonable care to protect their patrons, guests, tenants, and invitees, including the decedents, from the harmful conduct of other persons that the defendant could have reasonably anticipated,” the suit states.
The families are seeking unspecified damages for funeral and burial expenses, loss of love, companionship, comfort, care and other considerations.
Calls to Westfield Mission Valley for comment on the suit have not been returned.
The killings of Gianni, Salvatore and Flint baffled San Diego for about six months as police revealed no leads in the case. But in June, investigators arrested Carlo Gallapo Mercado, 29, charging him with three counts of first degree murder.
Mercado pleaded not guilty to the allegations, and in November, a judge ruled he was not competent to stand trial. He is being treated at Patton State Hospital for the next three years or until he is found competent.
The lawsuit also lists Mercado as a defendant, accusing him of malice and oppression in the shootings.