LOS ANGELES, May 2 (JTA) – The parents of a boy wounded by a white supremacist during a shooting rampage at a Jewish community center in 1999 are suing the center, charging it did not provide adequate security to prevent hate crimes.
Charles and Eleanor Kadish filed the lawsuit Monday on behalf of their son Benjamin, who sustained the most critical injuries among the five people shot by Buford Furrow Jr.
Benjamin, who was 5 when the shooting occurred on Aug. 10, 1999, continues to bear the scars of the assault on his abdomen, buttocks and legs, as well as suffering continuing emotional trauma, the lawsuit claims.
The charges were rejected by Nina Lieberman-Giladi, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles.
“We are not responsible, directly and indirectly, for the crimes committed by Mr. Furrow and the injuries he inflicted,” she said. “We cannot be responsible for the unpredictable act of a madman. We firmly believe that the lawsuit is not appropriate.”
After the shooting spree at the center, Furrow killed a Filipino American mailman. He pleaded guilty in March and is serving two life sentences.
Another community center source, who did not wish to be identified, said, “I don’t think it is possible for any Jewish organization to anticipate such a hate crime, and I’m not sure what would have constituted enough security to prevent it.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Kadish family in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorney Joseph Lovretovich. In a 12-page brief and during a phone interview, he claimed that Furrow targeted the North Valley JCC because it lacked security.
“Furrow admitted that he stalked three other Jewish institutions as possible targets, but passed them up because security was too tight,” Lovretovich said. “Furrow was not on a suicide mission. It seems almost like all the circumstances funneled Furrow directly to the North Valley center.”
The lawsuits seek compensation for Benjamin, who still walks with a limp and requires psychological counseling; his older brother Joshua, who was at the center during the shooting but was not wounded; and the Kadish parents.
The amount of damages is not specified but will include the cost of medical bills, which Lovretovich estimates as close to $500,000, and loss of income by the parents, both self-employed, of about $80,000. Also sought are compensation for pain, suffering and emotional distress of all family members.
As far as can be determined, none of the other victims of the shooting – two other young boys, a teen-age counselor and an adult receptionist – are filing lawsuits, although Lieberman-Giladi said she could not comment on that.
Alan Stepakoff, whose son Joshua was wounded in the shooting, said he would not sue the JCC. He refused to comment on the Kadish lawsuit.
(Wendy J. Madnick of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles contributed to this report.)