PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The family of a security guard killed at the Macy's in Center City Philadelphia is planning to file a civil lawsuit.
Twenty-seven-year-old Eric Harrison was stabbed to death by an alleged shoplifter, and his family's attorneys said Tuesday that years of security failures gave rise to criminal opportunity.
It's a painful scenario for Harrison's parents, who recalled the type of person he was.
"I can't pick one person who would say anything negative about him," said Harrison's father, Eric Coates.
One thing Coates says people admired most about his son was his work ethic.
"He wanted to prove, 'Hey I got this. I can do this,'" said Coates.
Saving up for a new apartment, Harrison worked two jobs and still found time to talk to his mom daily.
"I kept telling Eric to go ahead and quit," said Harrison's mother Dawn Fobbs, speaking of the advice she gave her son to leave the Macy's security job he worked during the day because he'd secured an overnight job at the U.S. Post Office.
On Dec. 4, Harrison's job at Macy's cost him his life.
Police say the suspect, 30-year-old Tyrone Tunnell, was caught stealing and was kicked out, but he came back and allegedly stabbed Harrison seemingly at random.
"He looks for the first target he can find, a target who is completely defenseless," said Eric Zajac of the law firm Zajac & Padilla which is representing Harrison's family and estate in the civil suit.
On Monday, the law firm filed several Writs of Summons against Macy's, along with the owners and management companies of the building. The civil action will then allow the law firm to file a more detailed lawsuit once the attorneys receive more information after the companies named in the lawsuit respond.
Those companies are as follows:
The attorneys allege that Macy's didn't provide employees with adequate protection, which they say is needed more than ever in Center City.
"Theft is rampant and criminals have become emboldened to do whatever they want. It's basically become an open secret in Philadelphia that shoplifting and other forms of theft are not being prosecuted," said Zajac, adding that the Macy's store has seen a particular set of challenges when it comes to crime.
"About 250 incidents were reported to police involving that store in 2023," he said.
There are now private security guards and armed Philadelphia police in the Center City Macy's - precautions that attorneys say should have been in place while Harrison was working there.
"Why did Eric Harrison have to die on the floor of the Macy's for them to institute proper security measures?" asked Evan Padilla also of Zajac & Padilla Law Firm.
Attorneys also want to know who leaked video of the attack, which they say has been harmful to Harrison's family.
"The security footage of this entire event happening had been leaked on social media for them to be re-traumatized again and again," said Padilla.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages, but it takes into account things like the potential earnings that Harrison could have had over his lifetime as well as the suffering that his family has endured.
"It will be in the many millions of dollars," said Zajac.
"It's not about the money, it's about the principle," said Fobbs, adding that she'd give any amount of money to have a ten-minute conversation with her son.
It's why Eric Harrison's parents have undertaken the fight, hoping to have their son's name attached to a new state shoplifting law and improve safety for all retail workers.
"I don't want this to happen to nobody else's child," said Fobbs.
A spokesperson for Macy's says they can't comment on the lawsuit, but the company did release a statement to Action News that reads as follows:
"We remain heartbroken about the tragedy that took place at Macy's Center City. Our hearts go out to the Harrison family during this difficult time. Per our policy on pending litigation, we have no additional comments at this time."
While she has received condolences from individual Macy's employees, Harrison's mother says no one from Macy's corporate office has reached out to the family.