CHICAGO (CBS) — The family of Bobbye Johnson, a grandmother killed by a stray bullet fired by a security guard in Bronzeville last week, is suing the businesses the guard worked for, accusing them of failing to conduct a proper background check or provide him with sufficient training.
“We have to do something to bring justice to the situation. I mean, it will never bring her back, but someone needs to know that she is not going to die in vain,” said attorney Cannon Lambert Sr., who represents Bobbye’s daughter, Carleeta.
The family is suing Brown; Bounty TAC Force, the security company that Brown worked for; as well as the three businesses where he was working at the time of the shooting – Jamaican Jerk King restaurant, Wood’s Food & Liquor, and Games R Us. The lawsuit accuses the businesses of wrongful death.
Bobbye Johnson had just paid her rent at Chase Bank at 35th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the afternoon of Feb. 1, and called her daughter to say she’d be home soon. Three minutes after that phone call, the 55-year-old grandmother of six was shot in the chest.
Police and prosecutors have said the shooting stemmed from a quarrel between liquor store security guard Victor Brown and a man nicknamed “Renegade.”
As seen on store surveillance video, the two men got into an argument at Wood’s Food and Liquor at 35th Street and Indiana Avenue – two full city blocks away from the Chase Bank branch where Johnson was at the time.
Surveillance video showed “Renegade” with his hands in his pockets as he argued with Brown, who put both of his fists near the man’s face. Prosecutors said a nurse who was waiting at a nearby bus stop claimed Brown was “acting belligerently” and saw him walk up to the man and threaten him, raising his fists at him, before “Renegade” shot Brown in his right thigh by firing a gun through his coat pocket. Brown is seen on video falling to the ground and firing blanks from his starter pistol as “Renegade” runs away, down the block.
Then, Brown is seen on surveillance video reaching for a real gun from another security guard. Prosecutors say Brown fired that gun 20 times on a busy street – with one of those bullets hitting Bobbye Johnson in her chest.
“That day was so hard for me. So hard, and I don’t even want to talk about it because, it’s just painful. It’s very painful,” Carleeta said.
Despite being a security guard, Brown has an extensive criminal record dating back to 2005, involving armed robbery and domestic battery. Lambert said Bounty TAC Force either failed to conduct a background check on Brown before hiring him, or their background check was flawed if it did not reveal his extensive criminal record.
“It is time that corporations and people start taking accountability for their actions. This man who did this to this family was working as a security guard, and yet the training he received, the conflict resolution skills that he had, and the education that he was supposed to have been given by those who employed him failed this family,” Lambert said. “The first principle in business is safety first, and if you don’t have protocols in place that honor that principle, you’re falling short, and that’s what we see here in this case.”
Lambert also said Brown’s employers didn’t provide him with the proper training to avoid having confrontations turn violent.
“Mr. Brown, instead of being trained to reduce and eliminate conflict, went out and put his fists up in another person’s face. You look at the fact that he could have easily gone and called the police,” Lambert said. “You would think that someone in the ownership group, someone in the management group for these companies would have at least been in the position where they had protocols in place that would ensure that their employees didn’t shoot down the block, a city block, when there was a conflict.”
Carleeta Johnson has said Brown’s actions were clearly reckless, given that he fired so many shots down a busy city street.
“There was a school there as well, and it could have been a child. It could have been an innocent child, innocent bystander. It was people all up there walking, taking care of their business, just like my mom was,” she said.
Lambert and Carleeta Johnson said they will fully cooperate with Cook County prosecutors as Brown faces murder charges in Bobbye’s death, but they also want the people who hired him held responsible for the shooting.
“Those stores should be held accountable, and to know not to do this again,” Carleeta said. “Yes, they are all accountable for my mother as well.”
Lambert said he intends to make sure Bobbye’s family also gets answers about what specific training Brown received, and what protocols were in place for a situation like the one that ended with him killing Bobbye.
“Why was it that this man was able to get a gun from another person, presumptively another security guard, when he shouldn’t have?” Lambert said. “What protocols were in place to allow that? Those need to change. We’re going to make sure that happens.”