SPOKANE, Wash. -- A man who admits to shooting the suspect accused of stealing his SUV could face second-degree murder charges.
Gail Gerlach, 56, says he shot at his 1997 Chevrolet Suburban just once after seeing 25-year-old Brendon T. Kaluza-Graham taking the vehicle.
Gerlach told police he saw the suspect pull out of his driveway. He followed Kaluza-Graham on foot and allegedly saw the suspect raise his arm. Gerlach says he fired when he thought he saw a gun. The suspect died instantly when a bullet hit him in the head.
Investigators finished searching the SUV Tuesday night and did not recover any weapons from the car.
Gerlach does not have a criminal history and was legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Kaluza-Graham had several run-ins with the law before his death. Police say they found two sets of shaved keys, a flashlight and a screw driver on his body.
“I don’t think what he was doing was right. He shouldn’t have been taking people’s vehicles but he didn’t deserve a death sentence,” Brendon’s uncle Pat Kaluza said. “I think he was shooting to kill. He obviously knew what he was doing and aimed to where he’d kill Brendon. He should be charged I think.”
Police say the case is classified as a second-degree murder rather than manslaughter because of intent. They say this was no accident.
“We investigate crimes as police, and the most appropriate crime would be murder. Not to say he did commit murder, but that’s the closest crime,” Lt. Mark Griffiths of the Major Crimes unit said. “Manslaughter is accidental or reckless.”
No one has been arrested or charged in this case.