The parents of a Georgia high school football star gunned down in the parking lot of a Dave & Buster’s outside Atlanta while on a date with his longtime girlfriend months ago have filed a civil lawsuit over the neighborhood’s pervasive criminal activity that comes as the second suspected killer pleaded not guilty.
Elijah DeWitt, an 18-year-old football player at Jefferson High School who had already garnered recognition from NFL quarterback Cam Newton, was shot and killed Oct. 5, 2022, in the parking lot of a Dave & Buster’s at Sugarloaf Mall, located in Lawrenceville, a suburb about 30 miles outside Atlanta.
Two days later, Kemare Bryan, 18, and Chandler Richardson, 19, both from Lawrenceville, were arrested at a South Carolina gas station and hauled back to Georgia to each face four counts of felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of certain felonies.
Last week, Richardson pleaded not guilty to all counts, FOX 5 Atlanta reported. Bryan had already pleaded not guilty last month.
GEORGIA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL STAR’S GIRLFRIEND SPEAKS OUT ABOUT HARROWING SHOOTING ON COUPLE’S DATE NIGHT
Craig and Dawn DeWitt, the surviving parents and co-administrators of their son’s estate, filed a complaint Friday for damages against Simon Property Group LP, which owns and operates Sugarloaf Mall. The wrongful death lawsuit also names Dave & Buster’s, Jason Choy, the security director for Sugarloaf Mills, and Universal Protective Service, LLC as defendants.
The lawsuit, filed in the State Court of Gwinnett County, alleges that there had been a substantial history of previous crime on the premises and that the defendants, “knew of the dangerous and hazardous conditions,” and that said conditions, “were likely to result in injuries and/or death to their invitees, including Elijah.”
The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants’ failure to warn of the crime and dangerous activity they knew about but did not tell visitors about, along with their failure to provide adequate and reasonable security measures, led to Elijah’s death. DeWitt’s parents said they hope this lawsuit “will hold the defendants responsible for their share of the responsibility for Elijah’s death and prevent another family from going through what they have.”
“This is not the dream we had for our son, instead it has become a daily nightmare that we are unable to wake up from. We are constantly reminded of the opportunities and moments that were taken away from him and sincerely hope that we can use our voices to help bring about some change that will prevent another family from experiencing this in the future,” Craig and Dawn DeWitt said in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital.
MOTIVE UNKNOWN IN MURDER OF GEORGIA FOOTBALL STAR SHOT AT MALL; TEEN SUSPECTS EXTRADITED FROM SOUTH CAROLINA
According to Michael Rafi of Rafi Law Firm, “When businesses know that their property is dangerous – either because of crime or other dangerous activity happening there, they have 2 options: 1) warn visitors, so they know about the danger and can make an educated decision about whether to go to the property, or 2) if they choose not to warn visitors, then they need to take reasonable safety measures to protect customers who are unaware of the danger. These Defendants did not warn or keep people safe.”
“Elijah had his whole life ahead of him. He was just beginning his senior year of high school and was set to continue his football career at the next level when his life was cut short on October 5th. This incident was entirely preventable and should not have happened. It is our intention to hold the Defendants responsible for this tragedy and obtain justice for Elijah’s family,” attorney Alex Brown added.
“Prior to Oct. 5, 2022, there had been numerous reports of criminal and dangerous activity at the Premises and in its immediate surrounding area, including aggravated assaults, robberies, car break-ins, and firearm-related crimes, about which Defendants knew,” the complaint says. “For that reason, as well as others, dangerous criminal activity at the Premises was reasonably foreseeable.”
The lawsuit alleges defendants knew the premises “was in a high crime area” and seeks an award of “punitive damages without limitation or cap,” as well as compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by a fair and reasonable jury for damages suffered, including physical, emotional and economic injuries.” That includes for mental anguish, fright shock and terror, funeral and burial expenses and future lost wages and earning capacity making up “all elements of the full value of Elijah DeWitt’s life.”