SPOKANE, Wash. - A Spokane jury took less than four hours to find Gail Gerlach not guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Brendon Kaluza-Graham.
Shortly after the jury's verdict was read, Gail and his wife Sharon embraced in the courtroom, looking visibly relieved. Shortly after leaving the courtroom, Gerlach read a prepared statement to the media.
"This is a tragedy and as Christians we believe in redemption. The greatest tragedy is that Mr. Brendon Kaluza-Graham will never have a chance to turn his life around. We give our condolences to his family. I'm going to take time to spend with my family and friends and I'd like that you please respect that," Gerlach said.
Brendon Kaluza-Graham's grandparents were in the courtroom when the verdict was read and their grief was made worse by the not guilty verdicts and said the news media had demonized their grandson by repeatedly referring to him as a thief instead of his proper name.
"He was made into a poster boy for the angst of a community about property crime. A sacrificial lamb. That's not right. You don't kill over annoyance and property crime," Ann Kaluza said.
On the witness stand Wednesday, Gerlach claimed in his own defense he felt he was in mortal danger when Kaluza-Graham was driving away from him in his stolen Chevy Suburban the morning of March 25, 2014.
"Only one thing went through my mind ... Oh s%&t I'm gonna die," he told the court.
Sharon Gerlach, who was with her husband that morning, said on the witness stand she also feared her husband was about to get shot.
"I told Detective Estes that I saw the driver of the vehicle raise his arm and point back at my husband and I thought he had a gun," she said.
Gerlach pulled his pistol from his holster, took aim and fired one shot, which went through the tinted back window of the SUV, through the front seat head rest and struck Kaluza-Graham in the back of the head. Spokane medical examiner Dr. Sally Aiken said that he died nearly instantly.
Moments after the verdict was read, the court ordered the jury to deliberate as to whether or not Gerlach's use of force against Kaluza-Graham was justified. Several hours later the jury determined his use of force was in fact justified. Only 10 out of 12 jurors had to find his use of force was justified in order for him to be compensated.
Gerlach's acquittal was in line with what ABC News Legal Analyst Dan Abrams said last week, in that jurors would find it hard to convict him as he was a victim of a crime.
"The fact that he stole the car and that this guy is shooting after a guy who stole his car in Spokane, Wash. is going to make it tough to get 12 jurors to convict beyond a reasonable doubt," Abrams said.
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