The parents of a 13-year-old boy brutally stabbed at the South Bay Galleria filed suit Monday against the Redondo Beach mall and its parent company, calling the shopping center a "cesspool of crime."
The lawsuit filed in Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles alleges the mall lacked enough security officers and surveillance cameras to prevent the Dec. 29 attack or, at least, help to catch the assailant, who remains unidentified and at large.
"We were under the assumption we were leaving our son in a safe place," said the boy's mother, Maria Williams. "Normally, we don't let our son go out on his own and we thought he would be in a safe place going to a mall to watch a movie. Obviously, he wasn't safe."
Michael Alder, the family's attorney, said he spoke to an attorney for the mall's parent company, Forest City Enterprises in Cleveland, and asked that they work together to make the mall safer, but "unfortunately they've chosen not to do that."
Alder said mall officials in Redondo Beach and at Forest City have not contacted the boy's family to check on his condition, offered to pay the $300,000 in medical expenses incurred so far, or expressed any remorse about what happened.
"They basically told us to pound sand," Alder said. "As a lawyer, my solution is only to file suit."
Michael Flowers, an attorney for Forest City
According to police, Ricky Williams was stabbed as he sat with a 13-year-old female friend after seeing "Red Dawn" at the AMC theaters on the third floor of the mall. Police said an assailant walked up to them and suddenly attacked them, stabbing both and disappearing into the mall crowd.
Detectives called it a random and unprovoked attack.
Ricky was stabbed in the heart, underwent open-heart surgery and is recovering. Ricky and the girl, who also underwent surgery, are back at school.
Unable to locate the attacker, police released snippets of video from store security cameras of the man walking near a Johnny Rockets restaurant and inside a Champs sporting goods store. So far, he has not been identified.
No mall security cameras were focused on the bench where the children were sitting, feet from the movie theaters. Alder said no security officers were in the area at the time, and no security guards witnessed the attack.
"We want the security presence to be increased," Alder said. "Surveillance cameras are a big deterrent. We don't understand why the stores would have surveillance, but the public areas would not."
Redondo Beach police detectives are continuing to examine and enhance the video in the hope they can identify a suspect. The FBI has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
Alder alleged that 128 crimes occurred at the Galleria in the three months leading up to the Dec. 29 attack. He acknowledged they were mostly petty thefts, but could not elaborate on what other crimes occurred there.
According to the Redondo Beach Police Department website, 146 crimes were reported during the last 90 days in the quarter-mile area surrounding and including the Galleria.
The crimes included 61 petty thefts and 14 burglaries. One
The crimes included one robbery and one attempted robbery. The offenses otherwise included vandalism, disturbing the peace, drunk in public, driving under the influence, forgery, grand theft, drug possession, fighting, spousal abuse, identity theft, making terrorist threats and car repossession.
In addition to Forest City Enterprises, the lawsuit targets Andrews International Inc., the mall's security company. Attempts to reach someone at the company for comment were unsuccessful.
Rich Williams said he and his son do not talk much about the assault, but that Ricky could face another heart operation as he grows. He said his son and his friend were "just sitting there minding their own business" when they were stabbed.
In a new detail, he said the man might have laughed before lunging at his son.
"He's a tough kid," the father said. "He'll get through this."
Alder said he is investigating other crimes at the mall and has established a website - MakeSouthBayGalleriaSafe.com - to seek information from the public.
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