A homeless man allegedly shot by a store employee in the Haight following a dispute that began over a Chihuahua is suing the store’s owners, saying the incident left him permanently disabled.
Attorneys for Michael Stafford, who frequented Fred’s New Lite Market before the Feb. 9 shooting, filed the civil lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court on April 6.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that Sam Kazzouh, 43, shot Stafford in the head and back, leaving him paraplegic. It further claims Kazzouh’s family, which runs the store, knew Kazzouh suffered from a mental illness that made him more prone to violence, but they allowed him access to a gun.
Reached by phone Thursday, Sam Kazzouh’s older brother Fred was unaware a lawsuit had been filed and said he was disappointed, having just visited Stafford in the hospital to check on his condition.
“I know the guy and he used to hang out in the store, and I treated him with dignity and respect,” Fred Kazzouh said. He wondered whether Stafford was being taken advantage of by attorneys eager to make a buck off “a tragedy” for all involved.
The attorney who filed the suit, Louis Abronson, said he had been contacted by Stafford’s sister, who was “trying to take care of him from out of state.”
A witness said that on the day of the shooting, Stafford was in the store with his dog, Gizmo, when Sam Kazzouh pushed the Chihuahua aside with his foot. Stafford took offense and the situation quickly escalated, the witness said.
Fred Kazzouh said his brother had been taking medication to help deal with his schizophrenia, but was not violent, and that Stafford “himself has an emotional condition.”
“It’s just the saddest thing in the world ... the whole incident,” Fred Kazzouh said. His brother remains in custody awaiting a preliminary hearing in criminal court May 19 on charges of attempted murder and assault with a firearm.
Less than two weeks after Stafford was shot, Gizmo died after running into traffic on Masonic Avenue. Police said the Chihuahua was struck by a car and killed instantly.