Rich and Maria Williams said they don't typically let their shy 13-year-old son go out on his own, so it was an exception that he went to the South Bay Galleria Dec. 29 to watch a movie unsupervised with friends.
Several hours after the movie let out, the teen—Ricky—and a girl of the same age were stabbed multiple times while sitting on a bench outside the third-floor AMC Theaters. Both survived, but have undergone weeks of medical treatment.
"We were under the assumption that we were leaving our son in a safe place... obviously he wasn't safe," Maria Williams said.
At a news conference Monday in Beverly Hills, the Williams announced they are filing a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of their son against the owners of the Galleria, Forest City Enterprises Inc., in an attempt to compel it to boost its security.
They are also seeking compensation for more than $300,000 in medical bills.
In addition to Forest City, the suit also names the private company that provides security at the mall, Andrews International Inc., and accuses both of negligence for "failing to warn the public about the known danger of criminal activity" at the Galleria and "failing to provide adequate security and surveillance," among other charges.
A spokeswoman for the mall would not comment on the suit; however, marketing manager Mickey Marraffino has previously expressed condolences to the families on behalf of Forest City, and in the days following the stabbings, the Redondo Beach Police Department increased patrols there. The Galleria and the city of Redondo Beach have a cost-sharing agreement where the Galleria pays for extra officers to patrol at the mall. The city contributed to the payments with funds from the local redevelopment agency until it was dissolved early last year.
In a statement released in January, Marraffino said the mall has an "extensive" security program, with 24-hour patrols, a command center and surveillance camera system. There are also "exterior vehicle and bicycle patrols for maximum visibility, and Redondo Beach police officers that are assigned to patrol exclusively at the Galleria," according to the statement.
According to the authorities, it was mall security who saw the two teens collapse after staggering toward the theater after being attacked.
The boy was stabbed six times—four times in the arm, once in the chest area and once in the side. The 13-year-old girl was stabbed once in the chest area, once in the side and once in the clavicle.
But when asked by reporters if there security guards working at the mall Dec. 29, the attorney representing the Williams, Michael Adler, said he did not know. "We know there weren't any security guards around this area (of the attack)," he said.
Adler said that according to police records, there have been 128 crimes reported to police at the Galleria in the past three months. Most of the crimes were petty thefts, and he said he did not yet know how many were for violent crimes.
"There hasn't been any scrutiny for all of those incidents," Alder said. "We are here to try to put a stop to them."
At Monday's press conference, Rich Williams called the Galleria "a cesspool for crime."
The attorney is recommending the mall place surveillance cameras in its public areas. Currently, there are only cameras outside of individual shops, he said.
The Redondo Beach police have told Patch there did not appear to be a surveillance camera focused on the bench the teens were sitting on when they were attacked; however, officers are continuing to review footage from nearby cameras.
Based on the victims' statements, they have released a sketch of the suspect, who is still at large.
On behalf of the Williams, Adler's law firm has launched a website for victims and shoppers to report Galleria crimes.
"We don't want this to happen to any other family," Maria Williams said. "It's a painful thing to have to go through."
—Redondo Beach Patch Editor Nicole Mooradian contributed to this report.
- 2 Teens Stabbed at South Bay Galleria
- Police: Stabbing Apparently Unprovoked
- Galleria Steps up Security After Stabbings
- Police Release Sketch of Stabbing Suspect
- Stabbing Victim's Parents Speak Out