Suspect killed during car theft attempt identified

Published On: Mar 26 2013 09:31:03 AM PDT   Updated On: Mar 27 2013 11:30:55 AM PDT
Brendon Kaluza-Graham
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office has identified the man shot and killed while trying to steal an SUV Monday morning.

The medical examiner said Brendon Kaluza-Graham, 25, died from a single gunshot wound to the head. His death is listed as homicide by the medical examiner, meaning simply that Kaluza-Graham died at the hands of another individual.

According to Spokane police, a man left his SUV running in his driveway near the intersection of Lee Street and Sharp Avenue. The owner of the SUV said Kaluza-Graham stole the Chevy Suburban. He was driving away when the owner shot him.

Kaluza-Graham lost consciousness and crashed the SUV into a garage several blocks away. He was later pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel.

Detectives are still investigating the shooting and are trying determine if the vehicle owner's used of deadly force was justified. Mike and Ann Kaluza, Brendon's grandparents, are calling his death murder.

The day before he died, he was working at his grandmother's home on the South Hill raking up pine needles.

"He was here Sunday, and always asked me to watch the paper for job openings and I gave him two numbers with landscaping jobs available," Ann Kaluza said.

The Kaluzas don't know why he was in North Spokane the next morning when he stole the SUV as it sat idling in a driveway. It was the fifth time Kaluza- Graham had taken a car in the last five years.

"[He] made some mistakes but overall a very sweet-natured, kind, good-hearted person," Ann Kaluza said.

"Brendon was a beloved member of our large family. We feel inconsolable and heartbroken at the loss of his life," she added."

Detectives are investigating what prompted the car owner to shoot at Kaluza-Graham. On previous occasions he had been found armed with a knife in encounters with police. A records check indicated that Kaluza-Graham has three past convictions for possession of stolen vehicles, one count of theft of a stolen vehicle and a single count of assaulting a law enforcement officer. So far in this case police have not indicated whether or not he was armed.

His grandparents, however, feel that he was driving away when he was shot and the use of force to stop a property crime was unnecessary.

"We feel like he was executed, that no this incident should have not ended in the loss of his life. We won't have our grandson again," Ann Kaluza said.

"It is just critical, it is a tremendous responsibility to have a concealed weapons permit or if you just have a gun in your house, you gotta know the laws of the state of Washington and when you can use it and when you can't," Mike Kaluza said.

The Spokane Police Department searched the SUV for weapons Tuesday; its not known yet what was found inside.

The vehicle owner has not been identified by authorities. He's indicated he would like to tell his side of the story, but can't on the advice of his attorney.

Ultimately, once the shooting investigation is completed, the case will be forwarded to the prosecutor's office for review. The prosecutor is going to base his decision on what the car owner knew at the time of the theft. Was Brendon Kaluza-Graham armed or in a position to hurt the car owner? Did he throw the SUV into reverse like he was going to run over the car owner or was he shot when he was no longer a threat?

In the end it may be such a close call that prosecutors may let a jury decide the case, something Brendon Kaluza-Graham won't be getting.