SPOKANE, Wash. - A search warrant filed in Spokane District Court identifies the man who shot and killed an alleged car thief Monday as 56-year-old Gail Herbert Gerlach.
The warrant was used to search Gerlach's stolen Chevy Suburban March 25. The items seized by detectives include the headrest that the bullet fired from Gerlach's gun went through before striking 25-year-old Brendon Kaluza-Graham in the head. While detectives found several tools that are commonly used by car thieves, no weapons were recovered from the SUV.
The search warrant, signed by Detective Neal Gallion, shows that he is investigating the crime of 2nd Degree Murder, though Gerlach has not actually been charged with a crime at this point.
At a 1 p.m. press briefing Wednesday, police confirmed no charges or arrests have been made in the case, but the investigation is nearly complete. They added this is a "complicated investigation" and they are not ready to say whether they feel shooting was justified. While the prosecutor ultimately will decide whether or not to charge Gerlach for shooting Kaluza-Graham, the police department can make a charging recommendation based on their findings in their investigation.
On Monday morning, Gerlach called 9-1-1 and told dispatchers that someone had just stolen his car and that he had shot at the suspect. That suspect, Brendon Kaluza-Graham, lost consciousness after he was hit by the single slug and crashed into a garage two blocks south on Lee Street.
Gerlach later told investigators that as Kaluza-Graham was pulling away from his home, he observed that Kaluza-Graham raised his arm, saw what he thought was a gun, thought he was going to shoot him, so he took his gun and shot one time at his Chevy Suburban. Kaluza-Graham was found slumped over inside the vehicle at 2202 E. Sharp, two blocks from where the the SUV was stolen.
The Suburban had crashed into the side of a garage and Kaluza-Graham was found with a bullet wound to the back of the skull and no exit wound. The medical examiner later confirmed he died from a single gunshot wound to the head.
While no weapons were found inside the SUV, Detective Gallion reported that they did find a flat bladed screwdriver, a flashlight, a set of keys including a shaved key in Kaluza-Graham's pocket and two more sets of shaved keys for different vehicle makes, which Gallion said are commonly used to steal vehicles.
Court records show Kaluza-Graham had been arrested four other times on car theft or possession of a stolen vehicle charges. Kaluza-Graham allegedly tried to pull a knife on officers during one of his previous arrests.
According to his business website, Gerlach is a second generation plumber and currently works as the head of Gerlach Plumbing, formerly known as Alliance Plumbing. Gerlach has lived in Spokane since 1976.
Gerlach has been cooperating with detectives and has not been charged in the incident.
Legal experts say if detectives do not believe Gerlach's use of force was justified, he could be charged with second degree murder or first degree manslaughter for Kaluza-Graham's death.
Should Gerlach face charges? It's been a hot topic here on the KXLY Facebook page.
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