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SF Pride Sued Over Shooting

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Bay Area Reporter

Saturday June 7, 2014

A man who was shot at last year's San Francisco Pride celebration is suing organizers, claiming they were negligent because they failed to provide adequate security.

Trevor Gardner, 24, is suing the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee for "not less than $10 million," according to the complaint he filed May 29 in San Francisco Superior Court.

Gardner, who lived in Los Angeles at the time of last year's festival, worked as a model for Tropicana Las Vegas Inc. at its booth June 30 near Civic Center and was taking down the stand when "an altercation broke out in the crowd," the filing says.

"There was an utter lack of security personnel to address the altercation," or take other steps, according to the complaint. After the fight "escalated, unabated," one man fried a gun into the crowd.

Gardner was shot in the leg and his femur was shattered.

"He was left bleeding on the ground" and "with no security present, the shooter was able to nonchalantly exit" the event "and disappear into the abyss of the city," the court document says.

While bystanders took videos on their phones, nobody from the Pride Committee attended to Gardner, who was "bleeding to near death," according to the complaint. Another man was also shot in the incident.

Gardner's co-worker and someone from another booth came to Gardner's aid.

Among other problems, he "remained immobile and unable to care for himself for months" and "will have to endure pain resulting from this incident for the rest of his life," Gardner's filing says.

"A partial bullet" remains in his leg, and Gardner "will need to endure lifelong medical care" and "has lost wages and lost earning potential," along with other impacts, according to the court document.

George Ridgely, the Pride Committee's executive director, and board President Gary Virginia declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing its pending nature. Both men joined the Pride organization months after Gardner was shot. Pride officials haven't filed a formal response, according to the San Francisco Superior Court's website.

The complaint points to several factors that Gardner feels should have made clear to Pride organizers that they needed to do more to ensure safety for people attending the parade and celebration.

"Notwithstanding the numerous SF Pride and Halloween shootings and stabbings that have transformed the event into a virtual shooting gallery in the high crime Tenderloin," where much of the festival takes place, the committee "failed to secure the perimeter of the event in 2013, allowed individuals to enter the event with little or no security screenings, and failed to maintain an adequate security presence at the event."

While volunteers are typically stationed at entrances to the San Francisco Pride celebration to collect donations, there are no security personnel conducting formal screening such as checking bags as people walk in.

The document mentions specific violent incidents associated with Pride, Pink Saturday - an annual Castro street festival that happens in the Castro the night before the Pride parade - and the Halloween parties that used to be held in the Castro neighborhood.

In one example that Gardner gives, Stephen Powell, 19, was shot to death around the time the Pink Saturday party ended in 2010.

The Pride Committee doesn't organize Pink Saturday and it was also not involved in the Halloween parties.

San Francisco police spokespeople weren't able to determine whether anyone had been arrested in connection with the shooting of Gardner.

The man who shot Gardner "was able to enter SF Pride with a firearm due to the lack of security screening present at [Los Angeles] Pride and ... other comparable events held in other cities," the complaint says.

Just weeks before the San Francisco celebration, Gardner had worked as a model at the Los Angeles event, where everyone who attended "needed to pass through security screening before entering the event."

Christopher Street West Association Inc., which organizes LA Pride, "hired security personnel to engage in this screening process ...," Gardner's complaint says. LA Pride officials didn't respond to an emailed request for confirmation of this information Tuesday, June 4.

Asked about the amount of money that Gardner is seeking, Ryan Lapine, an attorney representing him, cited the ongoing medical care he'll need. Lapine also referred to an infamous lawsuit against McDonald's, saying, "This isn't someone who spilled hot coffee on themselves. It's someone who was shot."

He declined to make Gardner available for an interview, citing concerns about him being misquoted.

Gardner filed a claim against the city in December, but Gabriel Zitrin, a spokesman for the City Attorney's office, said, "We couldn't see how the city was liable, so we denied the claim."

Lapine said Gardner wouldn't further pursue action against the city for the shooting.

This year's Pride festivities are set for June 28-29.

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