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Publix shooting has "ripped the family apart"

Relatives of two people killed in a shooting at a Publix in Royal Palm Beach are suing Publix for wrongful death. (WPEC)
Relatives of two people killed in a shooting at a Publix in Royal Palm Beach are suing Publix for wrongful death. (WPEC)
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Publix has 20 days to respond to a wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Relatives of two people killed in a shooting at a Publix in Royal Palm Beach are suing Publix for wrongful death.

The Publix at 1180 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. where the shooting happened last year is closed and fenced off and it's now a construction site. Publix said in an email that they store is being remodeled and is anticipated to reopen in 2023.

"Every business owner, whether it's a small business or a big business like Publix, has an obligation to keep their property safe," said Sean Domnick, a Palm Beach Gardens attorney who represents the relatives of the shooting victims.

What started as a shopping trip to Publix turned deadly for Sam Varone, 23 months old, and his grandmother Lithia Varone, 69.

Sam and Lithia were shot and killed in the produce section of Publix in Royal Palm Beach on June 10, 2021 by a gunman—caught on store surveillance cameras--wearing a mask, a black jacket, carrying a golf club and a duffle bag.

After shooting the little boy and his grandmother, the gunman took his own life.

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Now more than a year later, the toddler's parents are suing Publix.

"They're doing the best they can to try to put their lives back together. But the impact, the loss of this will be with them forever," said Sean Domnick.

The parents' lawsuit says Publix failed to protect its employees and customers from gun violence and put them at "unnecessary risk."

"They have an obligation to protect their customers, to protect their employees," Domnick said.

Their attorney says Publix should've had uniformed security guards as a deterrent and weapons detectors at the front entrance that would've sounded an alarm if someone entered the store with a gun.

"The problem with Publix and other stores like it, is they're happy to invest in technology to increase their net profits but they're not investing in technology for safety," Domnick said.

He says in 2021, Publix had net earnings of more than $4 billion and certainly can afford to put proper security measures in place to keep customers safe.

"Gun violence has just become so prevalent. We've seen it in grocery stores across the country. Their responsibility is to take the steps to protect the customers that are there. They didn't do that," he said.

The family is suing for in excess of $30,000 in damages.

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"We're suing to force change so that nobody else has to go through what this family has gone through," Domnick said.

According to their attorney, the toddler's parents did not want to do an on-camera interview.

He says they moved out of state after the shooting because living near the store reminded them of the tragedy.

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CBS12 News reached out to Publix for comment. They sent us a one-sentence statement, saying it would be inappropriate for them to comment on pending litigation.

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