Local News

Charges expected Wednesday for Gail Gerlach

SPOKANE, Wash. - Wednesday, Spokane county prosecutors are expected to announce whether or not they will press charges against a man who shot someone stealing his car.

Gail Gerlach killed Brendon Kaluza-Graham during the theft from his Lee street residence back on March 25th.

Gerlach says he opened fire with a single shot because he thought Kaluza-Graham was reaching for a gun while pulling out of Gerlach's driveway in the stolen SUV


However, when Spokane police say when they searched the Chevy Suburban, they only found a screwdriver in one of Kaluza-Graham's pockets.

Gerlach, a self employed plumber, says he fired in self defense however, major crimes detectives say the single bullet Gerlach fired went through the back windshield of the stolen car passing through the headrest before striking Kaluza-Graham in the head.

Court records show this was the fifth time Kaluza-Graham had wound up in a stolen car, but detectives are concerned the thief was no longer a threat to Gerlach when he fired the fatal round.

KXLY 4 sources say the Spokane Police Department was ready to recommend a second degree murder charge in the days after the incident but decided to wait until evidence in the case had been analyzed by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker is expected to explain his rationale for the charging decision on Wednesday. We can also gain insight by looking at similar cases where citizens shot unarmed suspects.

On June 14th, 2007 , Alan Turnipseed shot and killed a man driving through his Freya Street neighborhood at a high rate of speed. Turnipseed says he confronted Josh Smith who allegedly threatened him with a tire iron and tried to run him over. Turnipseed shot and killed Smith behind the wheel of his car.

A deadlocked jury refused to convict Turnipseed, but in his second trial jurors were allowed to consider the lesser charge of first degree manslaughter and reached a unanimous verdict.

Gerlach's attorney told KXLY he has not been advised of the charging decision, but his client is "waiting on pins and needles" to hear how prosecutors feel.

Kaluza-Graham's grandparents say, they think a second degree murder charge is appropriate. They also feel Gerlach should have been required to take a class covering the laws regarding the use of deadly force before being granted his concealed-carry license. 

If Gerlach is charged with either count he faces a minimum seven years in prison.