A man from Spokane, Washington is on trial Friday morning for the charge of first-degree manslaughter after he shot down a man who was stealing his SUV.
Gail Gerlach, 56-years-old, walked outside his Spoke residence to see Brendon Kaluza-Graham driving off with his SUV on March 25, 2013, prompting him to fire a single gunshot from his 9mm semiautomatic from about 60 feet away.
The bullet pierced through the rear window and headrest, hitting Kaluza-Graham’s spine at the base of the skull and killed him almost instantly. Gerlach has a permit to own the weapon.
Gerlach’s defense is that he thought he saw Kaluza-Grahma pointing a gun in his direction and he believed his life was in danger.
“This case has a theme, and the theme of this case is the sight of fear,” Gerlach’s attorney, Richard Lee, said in court.
Prosecutors say that it was physically impossible for Gerlach to see the victim as the car was driving away, and that the windows were too tinted and dirty to see inside. Additionally, Kaluza-Graham was unharmed in the incident.
Prosecutors claim Gerlach firing his gun was both reckless and unnecessary.
The first-degree manslaughter charge requires proof that Gerlach acted recklessly. Gerlach, of Spokane, is a self-employed plumber, and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charge.
Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken took the stand to testify Friday by explaining her background and experiences stating she has performed more than 7,000 autopsies during her career.
Aiken responded to the scene where Gerlach shot Kaluza-Graham to make sure the evidence and body wasn’t tampered with, as well as to offer preliminary information about injuries. Aiken testified she found two quarters, a cigarette lighter, a pocket knife, bills, and pennies stuffed inside the jeans Kaluza-Graham was wearing at the autopsy.
Aiken told the court at the time of Kaluza-Graham was shot, there would not be a way he could turn around facing backward, based on the trajectory of the bullet.