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The Unkindest Hot Dog Stand of All

PITTSBURGH (CN) - The Original Hot Dog Shop adds a 15 percent surcharge for security, but that did not stop a man from being shot to death there, his parents claim in court.

James and Denise Sheridan sued the well known Pittsburgh business, known as "The O," which began 52 years ago as a hot dog stand outside Forbes Field.

The Sheridans' son, Zachary, was shot to death outside The O in August 2013 after it stopped providing the security that customers paid for, according to the complaint in Allegheny County Court.

"For years," the complaint states, "the Original employed two off-duty Pittsburgh police officers on Friday and Saturday nights, and imposed a fifteen percent (15%) security surcharge to all food purchases after 11:00 p.m. for the added expense of such security. The officers were stationed in the vicinity of each of the doors to the Original.

"Not only did said officers ensure the safety of patrons and individuals inside the Original's shop; they were regularly stationed outside the Original to police the sidewalk and surrounding areas because the management of the Original was aware that many of its patrons and individuals occupied those areas both before and after making food purchases," according to the complaint.

The Sheridans claim that when management at the Original sought to reduce security in 2012, going from two officers down to one officer on Friday and Saturday nights, the City of Pittsburgh "would not agree to reduce the detail to only one off-duty officer because it would not be safe due to the known risks of criminal behavior at the Original's premises."

"Incredibly, rather than pay for two officers as recommended by the city, the management of the Original, in callous disregard for the safety of its business invitees, discontinued the provision of police officers and/or security personnel at its Premises entirely, despite having knowledge of the potential for violence at and/or in the vicinity of its premises," the complaint states.

The Sheridans claim the Original continued to charge customers the security surcharge despite no longer providing police security, and that Zach himself paid the security surcharge on the night of his death, though "there was no off-duty police officer or other security present at the Original on August 3, 2013."

The parents claim the fatal shooting began when a woman who had had a disagreement with one of Zach's friends involved a group of her male friends, including (nonparty) Isiah Smith, to confront Zach's friend.

According to the complaint, she "knocked on the window of the Original next one of the entry doors and signaled for Smith and his friends to come outside. The window on which [she] knocked was in the same location as the Original had previously posted an off-duty police officer, before the Original decided to remove its police presence."

The Sheridans say that Smith "approached Zach's friends and they exchanged words."

According to the complaint, "Smith was brandishing a firearm, waving it in the face of Zach's friends, before re-holstering it in his waistband. Thereafter Smith violently pushed Zach's friend into Zach. Zach came to his friend's aid and knocked Smith to the ground. Zach then backed away and began to cross the street.

"As Zach was leaving, with his back turned, Smith fired a shot which entered Zach's back, passed through his body, and exited the upper left side of his chest. At the time, Zach was approximately twenty (20) feet away from Smith.

Zach staggered some two hundred feet and collapsed on South Bouquet Street and was, thereafter, pronounced dead."

Smith was charged with homicide, according to Pittsburgh media reporter, and representatives from the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office met with the Original to discuss security changes for the restaurant shortly after the shooting.

The Sheridans say that managers of the Original knew violent and criminal acts happened on its property and negligently decided to operate without any security personnel anyway, despite the fact that it still charged patrons for the security it no longer provided.

They seek damages for negligent failure to render services and premises liability. They are represented by Jeffrey Ward, Kelly Iverson and Katie Jacobs of Cohen & Grigsby in Pittsburgh.


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