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Mother of Riverview shooting victim files wrongful-death lawsuit

Durant High School senior DeVante Lamar Dallas was shot and killed at a graduation party at the Winthrop Pole Barn and Theatre in May 2010. Authorities say a fight broke out after graduation festivities ballooned from 70 invited guests to hundreds of uninvited party crashers. Chaperones drove out the brawlers, but shots were later fired, killing Dallas and injuring two others.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times (2010)

Durant High School senior DeVante Lamar Dallas was shot and killed at a graduation party at the Winthrop Pole Barn and Theatre in May 2010. Authorities say a fight broke out after graduation festivities ballooned from 70 invited guests to hundreds of uninvited party crashers. Chaperones drove out the brawlers, but shots were later fired, killing Dallas and injuring two others.

TAMPA — The man accused of killing her son sits in jail awaiting trial.

Sunceray Dean attends his court hearings, staring at the man who authorities say gunned down her 18-year-old son, DeVante Lamar Dallas, a bystander at a Riverview party last year that spiraled out of control.

But she says the shooting suspect is not the only person who bears responsibility for her son's death.

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed in October, Dean blames four others:

• Landside Investments, the company that owns the rental hall where the party took place,

• Jeffrey Thomas, the parent who rented the property for the party,

• George Bianco and Junior Hernandez, two chaperones.

"It has devastated Ms. Dean and her family," said Dean's attorney, Richard Giglio. "They are quite displeased with the manner in which the facility has been run and how they dealt with and supervised events that went on there."

Shots fired into crowd

On the night of May 22, 2010, authorities say graduation festivities at the Winthrop Pole Barn and Theatre ballooned from 70 invited guests to hundreds of uninvited party crashers. A fight broke out, and shooting suspect Khayri McCray got socked in the nose.

Chaperones bounced out the brawlers, including 19-year-old McCray. But that's when authorities say McCray armed himself and returned to the party, emptying bullets into a crowd outside the party.

Thomas, 43, and De Ron Richardson, 21, were injured in the shooting. Bullets also struck and fatally wounded Dallas, a Durant High senior.

Authorities say McCray jumped into a car that drove away from the scene on Bloomingdale Avenue. He turned himself in the next day.

His attorney has since said ballistic reports don't link the gun allegedly wielded by McCray to the bullets fired that night.

In the recently filed civil suit, Dallas' mother claims the facility owner, Landside, neglected its duty to monitor safety at the pole barn. She faults Landside for renting the event center to "unqualified" people, allowing the party to grow with uninvited guests and failing to put precautions into place that would have stopped the violence that night.

Bill Smoak, an attorney representing Landside, said the pole barn never provides armed security for events there. While Landside had a contract for the party, Smoak said it did not include any liability waiver.

Smoak called the shooting a tragedy but said there was no way Landside could have predicted or prevented the slaying.

Landside's manager, John Sullivan, also oversees the company that owns the Times building in Riverview, which houses the Brandon bureau of the St. Petersburg Times.

The lawsuit also accuses Thomas of not maintaining secure conditions for the party he hosted, and Bianco and Hernandez for not providing adequate security as chaperones.

As of Monday, court records did not list an attorney for Thomas. He could not be reached for comment. An attorney for Bianco did not return a reporter's call, and an attorney for Hernandez declined to comment.

The liability suit asks for damages in excess of $15,000 from each defendant for the expenses and emotional toll of Dallas' death. Dean's attorney declined to specify an amount the family is seeking.

"Unfortunately," Giglio said, "there's nothing that's going to bring her son back. The only remedies that are possible are monetary in our system."

Giglio says the outcome of the pending criminal case will likely not have an effect on the civil suit.

Suspect back in jail

In the criminal case, authorities have charged McCray with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. McCray posted $200,000 bail on Jan. 1 but it was revoked in July after authorities say a photograph surfaced of McCray violating the terms of his bail agreement.

The photograph, taken at a nightclub, showed McCray out during his 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, his attorney said. In the photograph, McCray posed with Charles Waits, a shooting suspect in a June double homicide and a witness listed in McCray's case.

McCray remains in Hillsborough County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail. His trial is scheduled to begin in January.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

Mother of Riverview shooting victim files wrongful-death lawsuit 11/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 24, 2011 3:30am]
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