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Publix sued over 2021 shooting deaths of South Florida grandmother, toddler

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The family members of a grandmother and toddler fatally shot at a South Florida Publix last year are suing the grocery chain, claiming it failed to “keep its store reasonably safe,” according to court documents.

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The lawsuit was filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court on Wednesday by the relatives of Litha G. Varone, 69, and 1-year-old Sam Varone, or “S.V” as mentioned in court documents, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit are the child’s parents, Daniel and Melissa Varone; and David Varone and Sandra Varone. Daniel, David and Sandra Varone are identified as Litha Varone’s children, according to the newspaper.

The family is seeking a jury trial for damages, according to WPTV.

Litha Varone was with her grandson in a Publix in Royal Palm Beach on June 10, 2021, when they were shot and killed by Timothy J. Wall, 55, according to the television station.

Wall shot the toddler first after stalking his victims in the produce aisle of the supermarket, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The child’s grandmother grabbed the gun, jamming it in the process. As Wall tried to reload, he pushed Litha Varone to the ground, the newspaper reported. Then he shot the woman before turning the gun on himself, Palm Beach County Sheriff Maj. Talal Masri said.

Police said there was no indication Wall knew his victims, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Investigators later said they found Wall had posted on Facebook that he wanted to kill people, including children.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said the day after the shooting that Wall had been making threats on Facebook as recently as a day before the shooting, WPTV reported.

“He has said, ‘I want to kill people and children.’ He’s got friends. Obviously, they saw that,” Bradshaw said at a news conference. “His ex-wife said that he has been acting strange. He thinks he is being followed. He’s paranoid. Do you think a damn soul told us about that? No.

“And if it sounds like I’m angry, I am.”

The lawsuit accuses Publix of failing to take “reasonable steps necessary to provide protection from third-party crime,” the Sun-Sentinel reported. The suit contends that no measures were taken despite what it said was a 35% increase in gun homicides in business locations in 2020.

Publix is not commenting on the lawsuit, WPBF-TV reported.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment on pending litigation,” the supermarket chain said in a statement.

The Publix where the shooting occurred has since been demolished and is being rebuilt, WPTV reported.