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CHARGED: Spokane car theft suspect shot dead: Was it legal?

Discussion in 'Legal & Political Archive' started by Dave Workman, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. Dave Workman

    Dave Workman Western Washington Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Charge in Spokane auto theft killing rekindles lethal force debate

    Almost immediately after Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker announced yesterday that 56-year-old Gail Gerlach would face a charge of first-degree manslaughter in the slaying of auto thief Brendon Kaluza-Graham on March 25, debate over the use of deadly force in the case erupted anew.

    Charge in Spokane auto theft killing rekindles lethal force debate - Seattle gun rights | Examiner.com



    Spokane-area residents debate: Should car thieves be shot?

    A lively discussion about justice, self-defense, property rights and the use of lethal force has erupted in Spokane this week in the wake of a fatal Monday morning shooting in which a recidivist car thief was fatally shot by his latest victim as he drove away in the shooter’s Chevy Suburban.

    Spokane-area residents debate: Should car thieves be shot? - Seattle gun rights | Examiner.com

    Ladies and Gents: Don't be shy about leaving an opinion below my column, or cut and paste it from what you say here.
    There is a level of frustration over criminals, but do we — should we — be able to open fire on them?
  2. Morpheus

    Morpheus Columbia Gorge Anyway, back on the farm.

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    For me this has two parts. First, would I shoot at someone stealing my car. Second, is it justified to protect property with force.

    The first question is, most likely not. To me it is just car. If I was in the car, yes. If someone else was in the car and I had a clear shot maybe. If a million dollars was in the car, yes. But overall, most likely not.

    Second, is it justified to protect property with force. In my opinion, yes. Though, I would put a 'but' on the statement. If I show up, and someone is stealing my TV I most likely would use force to stop them. What level of force, not sure. But in the situation, drawing my pistol yelling at him to get the bubblegum down and wait for the cops to take him away. That seems reasonable. If he turns and runs, I would most likely let him go. If he attacked, well then I have to explain to the police 'I was afraid for my life. There is the criminal. I'll give you a statement as soon as my lawyer gets here." :)

    Other thoughts?
    ATCclears, mjbskwim, revmedia and 5 others like this.
  3. One-Eyed Ross

    One-Eyed Ross Winlock, WA Well-Known Member

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    This is a tough one...If car theft is a felony, and was being committed in the shooters presence, it would seem that there is doubt about guilt.

    Not sure what I'd do if I was on the jury...
  4. chrisk86

    chrisk86 Spokane Member

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    as morpheus said it would depend on the situation, if I am sitting in the car and that person tried pulling me out of the car to take it, if I could safely get to my firearm then yes I would shoot because I would be fearing for my life but if I walk out to my car one night and someone is driving away in it Idont think I would shoot, to many variables in that situation in todays world shooting someone or at least shooting at someone is so dangerous legally to the person shooting I would only use deadly force as an absolute last resort...
  5. Hrethgir

    Hrethgir Beaverton, OR Active Member

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    I think it's fine, you have the right to protect your property. Whether I would shoot someone stealing my car (right now I wouldn't, I want a new car and that would make it so much easier, lol) doesn't really matter, because that's a choice for each person in each situation. But if we don't have the RIGHT to use lethal force to protect personal property, then that choice has been taken away from us.
  6. Redcap

    Redcap Lewis County, WA Well-Known Member

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    Were someone trying to steal one of my cars or trucks, I would drop them without a second thought. Legal or or otherwise.
  7. duane black

    duane black Washington Well-Known Member

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    This is a interesting question Dave.

    For me it would depend entirely on the circumstances. If I was at a stoplight and someone tried to carjack me with my kid in the car, yeah I'm pulling on him. If I was at a gas station under the same circumstances, yeah I'm pulling on him. She is 4 years old and can barely get out of her car seat, I will do whatever I have to including justifiable homicide to protect her.

    If I hear my car alarm go off and stumble down stairs and see the dude starting it drive off, I would not shoot the person over my car. I have insurance, and it's just a car.

    For me it really comes down to this;

    is my life or someone else s in immediate danger ?

    Does the person committing the act have the capability to carry out the act of causing me or someone else great bodily injury or death ?
    ( I'm young, 220 , lift weights, tattooed, shaved head, I COULD face a different level of scrutiny than say someone whom is in a wheel chair, or 97 years old )

    I can't stress enough the importance of having a less than lethal option as well for people whom take self defense seriously. I carry a 4oz can of FOX pepper spray for instances such as this. The circumstances under which i would pull my gun are VERY narrow as if I pull it, I'm discharging it.

    You never know when you come across some POS beating the hell out of his woman in front of the store.

    I was sitting in traffic at the bay bay bridge toll crossing one day with my wife. The car in front of me honked his horn at the guy in front of him. The guy whom was honked at jumped out of his car and ran up to the guy whom honked window and said " Yo MOFO, get the F out of the car " .

    That didn't have the potential to get ugly.

    The bay area sucks, BTW

    How would YOU handle these two situations ?

    Food for thought.
  8. Misterbill

    Misterbill Yakima County, Washington New Member

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    The details on this story are so scant that it's impossible to draw any firm conclusions about criminal liability on the part of the homeowner.

    But as to property crimes, the law and more importantly case law, is VERY clear on this subject. You can use force to protect property. But NOT, repeat NOT, deadly force.

    I can physically stop someone from stealing from me. I can also hold them for law enforcement using physical force. I cannot shoot someone or use any other form of deadly force because I saw them stealing my car as they drive away.

    I have very diffident feelings about allowing deadly force over simple property theft. I don't like the way Texas is going, where people are getting shot essentially for trespassing and petty theft. It certainly doesn't deter crime, as property crime in TX is pretty high compared to other states.

    My biggest concern though is that 14 y/o kids doing a simple car prowl are going to get blown away over $30 in CDs when no one was ever threatened in the slightest with any kind of violence.

    That's not a reasonable penalty for petty theft. And I'm not sure I could agree that death would be the proper punishment for ANY level of theft, even if we had perfect knowledge of guilt and innocence in 100% of the cases.

    I'm all for beefing up punishments. This guy shouldn't even have been out of prison given his record. But summary execution at the hands of citizens for simple theft is pushing the envelope farther than I'm comfortable with.
  9. Phillyfan

    Phillyfan Oregon City, Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    In Oregon my understanding is that this would not be a justified shooting. However, the way I read the Washington law it seems that it is justified in the fact that a felony was being committed in the shooter's presence.

    That being said, I would not shoot for several reasons.

    1. There is nothing that I own that I feel is worth another persons life. Things can be replaced, people can be rehabilitated.

    2. Depending on the area in which this took place, you might be endangering innocent people's lives by shooting.

    3. My insurance deductable is way less than the cost of lawyer fees coming from a possible attempt at prosecution. If this goes to trial the guy may be bankrupted or in debt for the rest of his life.
  10. Phillyfan

    Phillyfan Oregon City, Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Also should note that it seems that we have very few facts regarding how all of this went down so we are really just speculating at face value.
  11. osterr1999

    osterr1999 Silverton, OR Active Member

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    I can always replace my car, but unless the person was trying to run me or someone I loved over, I think it is better to let them have it because the risk of going to jail is too much. I have a family that depends on me to make a living and if I am in jail or in court I can't provide that living to them, so for me it is a practical decision. Now if you asked me if the thief deserved to be shot? I would say yes. If you are a thief, you get no sympathy from me.

    If I were on the jury however, I would most likely not convict this person based on what was presented in the article because I have always believed that one of the inherent risks of being a criminal is the risk of being shot.
  12. ocarolan

    ocarolan Portland, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    What if a distressed Vietnam vet (former Green Beret) stole your motorcycle, while running from a draconian police force?


    Seriously though, the real problem here is the lack of punishment for repeat criminals. These guys belong on the end of a rope. Instead, we leave them free, while restricting our own behavior (private gun sales, locks, mistrust). We make our day-to-day lives a "jail" because they are free.
  13. Dave Workman

    Dave Workman Western Washington Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Well, it IS an interesting question, which is why I posed it. There is a lot about this case that leaves me scratching my head, probably because I wrote that Washington gun rights book, but it seemed that this forum and other gun forums is the right place to ask this question.

    We can listen to anti-gunners pontificate all day long about this but as we see from the sincere reactions written here, gun owners who consider self-defense every time they put on a gun and holster are very thoughtful about this and that's what I'm looking for.

    I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer in the moral sense, and legally, I'm waiting to see what prosecutors do with this. They'll be damned if they do, damned if they don't, I suspect.

    Everybody remember to vote on the poll, of course. That's why I posted it here and on five other forums...same question, same options.
  14. Dave Workman

    Dave Workman Western Washington Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I'd probably shoot him simply for lousy acting

    Rotty, mjbskwim, ocarolan and 5 others like this.
  15. rapgood

    rapgood Seattle, WA Member

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    Washington state statutory law is fairly clear on this. One may use deadly force if protecting himself/herself or others in danger of imminent harm. While the common law gives some support for the use of deadly force to protect personal property, doing so in Washington would likely result in a criminal charge of assault or unlawful display of a weapon (unless the use of the firearm resulted in death, in which case the charge will likely be some form of homicide).

    Personally, I wouldn't use deadly force unless I reasonably believe I am facing imminent harm to myself or others.
  16. Hawaiian

    Hawaiian Tigard Oregon Well-Known Member

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    No, I would not shoot someone over a car.
  17. no time

    no time Roseburg area Active Member

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    Stealing a guys Chevy usually wouldn't be a death penalty offense.

    If it's missing out of your driveway one morning and you're late for work, then your insurance covers it and you have a good water cooler story...and the thief deserves a good azzbeating and a little "time out" in Club Fed...

    But what if you were 50 miles from civilization in the middle of a snowstorm with no other way to safety and some dirt bag commandeers your vehicle with the intent of leaving you to freeze to death? Then it's more than a theft and there might be shots fired...

    Need for info on this particular case to make a decision.

    Just my 2 cents...YMMV...
    Oklahomie and (deleted member) like this.
  18. Slowpoke

    Slowpoke Beaverton Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Now if it was a Ford it would be different. :lolbeat:

    (Someone had to say it)
  19. slimer13

    slimer13 Deer Park Well-Known Member

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    In Spokane, this is only acceptable if you are a cop and are intoxicated and illegaly carrying at a bar. Then you get a paid vacation and an excellent defense all paid for by the taxpayer.

    Police begin probe into Shonto Pete shooting - Spokesman.com - March 16, 2009

    This guy will be screwed for a long time and will be sued in civil court even if he does not get charged criminaly. The media has already started a smear campaign against him.

    Police ID man who shot car thief; no weapon found - Spokesman.com - March 27, 2013


    Although this guy will most likely be made an example out of, the world is a better place and future innocent lives were possibly saved by the elimination of a recidivist scumbag.
  20. Phillyfan

    Phillyfan Oregon City, Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    [/QUOTE]the world is a better place and future innocent lives were possibly saved by the elimination of a recidivist scumbag.[/QUOTE]

    Are you kidding me? The guy stole a car. Not really sure how you get that "future innocent lives were possibly saved" from that. And how exactly is the world a better place now?

    Who are we to decide that this guy isn't worth giving a chance to turn his life around? You think he is a piece of crap because he is a repeat offender so you would rather have him dead?

    The shooter defended his property, right or wrong, that is it. Don't make him out to be some kind of hero because there was nothing heroic about it.