Family of 7-year-old killed in crossfire sues Westside shopping plaza over security concerns

Layers are targeting apartment complexes and shopping plazas all over Jacksonville on behalf of crime victims

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The lawyer for the family of 7-year-old Heidy Rivas-Villanueva is looking to take on multiple landlords and property owners that they feel aren’t keeping their property safe.

Rivas-Villanueva was caught in the crossfire of a shootout in 2018 outside a shopping plaza on 103rd Street.

Now her family’s lawyer intends to sue the property owner of the plaza.

But that’s not all. Lawyers are also going after other landowners in different suits around Jacksonville.

The lawyer for the Rivas-Villanueva family said the property owner of the shopping plaza in Heidy’s case is one of many that they contend don’t do enough to protect customers.

The scene was tragic when Jacksonville learned Rivas-Villanueva had been killed in a shootout at a Westside shopping plaza. Now, almost a year and a half later, as four men are being sentenced for murder, her family’s lawyer said the plaza was known for crime and the property owners did nothing.

“This is not an isolated incident, this particular area around 103rd is notorious for incidents like this,” the family’s attorney Millicent Daniels said.

Daniels works for a law firm targeting apartment complexes and shopping plazas all over Jacksonville on behalf of crime victims. Daniels said her firm has already filed numerous lawsuits and are working on others

“The landlord’s responsibility is to keep their guests safe,” Daniels said. “So what does that mean? That means that the cameras are supposed to work. In a parking lot, there should be adequate security.”

News4Jax searched property records of the plaza where Rivas-Villanueva was killed and noticed the plaza was sold to a different owner last March. News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said some property owners could be vulnerable to litigation because he has seen numerous properties around the city where security is minimal or non-existent.

“This also should be a message to the property owners that they need to beef up and secure their places in the way they provide a deterrent for this type of behavior,” Jefferson said.

The lawsuit the attorney said she intends to file on behalf of Heidy Rivas-Villanueva’s family is separate from the criminal proceedings for the four men involved in the shootout. All four have made plea deals with prosecutors, including the three who fired shots.

Two were convicted of second-degree murder, the other third-degree murder.

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