Family of 19-year-old mother killed near GSU suing Downtown Atlanta gas station

The family of a 19-year-old mother who was killed near Georgia State University plans to file a lawsuit against the Downtown Atlanta gas station and student housing complex near where she was shot.

D'Asia Hart was one of four bystanders shot on the morning of Oct. 29, 2023, when police say a fight between a group of men escalated into a shootout.

The shooting happened along John Wesley Dobbs Avenue near the RaceTrac gas station and The Mix, an off-campus student housing option for GSU.

De'Asia Hart (Courtesy of the family)

Hart, the mother of a 1-year-old girl, later died at a local hospital.

The gunmen involved in the shooting remain on the run. Atlanta police shared surveillance footage of three persons of interest - one of whom officials say was seen discarding an AR-15-style rifle before fleeing the scene. 

Attorneys for Hart's family claim that the gas station and nearby properties have a "documented history" of shootings, assaults, robberies, and other violent crimes.

According to the lawsuit, RaceTrac continued to allow large crowds to gather at the property despite the company's "full knowledge of myriad violent incidents at its location."

Family of De'Asia Hart blames a lack of security

Hart, who aspired to become a lawyer, was the only fatality among four shooting victims in an event that also saw another young life claimed recently at the same location.

Attorneys for Hart's family have criticized both establishments for their lack of action to ensure safety. "It was shocking to get a call saying my only child has been shot," said Allison Tuff, Hart's mother, who is now faced with the daunting task of raising her granddaughter alone. 

The absence of security or police at the time of her daughter's death has prompted a broader discussion. L. Chris Stewart, representing the Hart family, condemned the negligence displayed by the involved parties, emphasizing the chaos at the party Hart attended. "There were no security cops. There were no police officers. They were just thrown out of the building into the street and mixed with the huge group that was already at the racetrack," Stewart detailed, highlighting the danger posed by such unregulated gatherings.

The lawsuit's filing follows closely on the heels of another shooting at the same location. 

Georgia State University has ramped up its security efforts, while RaceTrac has announced the permanent closure of its implicated gas station.

Despite these measures, attorneys for the deceased argue that more needs to be done to address the root cause of these tragedies. Stewart criticized the lack of accountability among businesses, attributing the recurring violence to a prioritization of profits over people's safety.

RaceTrac has responded to the allegations, stating that while Hart's death did not occur on their property, they are deeply troubled by the incident and its implications for community safety. The Mix Apartments has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

RaceTrac shuts down after deadly shooting

The lawsuit comes days after the RaceTrac gas station announced it would be permanently shutting its doors following another deadly shooting over the weekend. 

Officials say the shooting happened around 12:30 p.m. Sunday and began as a fight between three people that escalated into gunfire.

Investigators say a 21-year-old who was not a student at Georgia State was killed in the shooting. Police have not released his identity.

On Monday, RaceTrac's CEO announced that they were closing the business, saying the decision was one about safety and financial impact.

"I am deeply saddened by the recent senseless acts of violence at and near this store," said CEO Natalie Morhous. "As an Atlanta-based business, we did not reach this decision lightly. We know how important our stores are to the community: They are open to guests 24/7/365, they create local jobs, they generate taxes, and play a critical role in the states in which they operate. However, RaceTrac can only be successful when our stores are safe for our team members and our guests."

The family and their attorneys are expected to announce the lawsuit on Thursday morning.