Community divided over shooting of car thief
Spokesman Review: A poster intended to memorialize “a friend and son” has become a message board for a community divided about whether a Spokane homeowner was justified in killing an unarmed man who stole his Suburban.
“Murder is not the answer,” one note says. “Don’t commit crime! This is what happens!!” reads another.
The board is nailed to a North Lee Street utility pole next to the garage police say 25-year-old Brendon Kaluza-Graham slammed into after 56-year-old Gail Gerlach shot him in the back of the head after he stole his SUV.
Gerlach has not been charged in the shooting. Although he fired his gun as Kaluza-Graham drove away, he told police the man appeared to be armed, according to court documents.
Gerlach grew up in the Chief Garry Park neighborhood and stayed there to raise his own family. Neighbors who know him were unwilling to talk much because they said they didn’t want to gossip. One woman who has known him most of his life, though, said he’s “a good man.” Another called him a “good dad.”
Residents suggested Wednesday that Gerlach’s actions may have been triggered by frustration over property crime in the neighborhood. Dan Wilson, a resident who is also a caretaker for the owner of the destroyed garage, said many people have been coming by in the last two days to share their opinions.
Gail Gerlach could face second-degree murder charges.
The grandmother of the thief, Ann Kaluza, told MyFoxSpokane he was a wonderful grandson, and not a violent person.
The dead thief’s license was revoked when he spent a year in jail on charges of vehicle theft, possessing drugs and assaulting a police officer. He was just released in January, and was applying for jobs. Before that, he’d been convicted four times for
taking a vehicle without permission stealing a vehicle.
Kaluza admits her grandson made a few mistakes the last few years, but says he didn’t deserve to die.
Police say Kaluza-Graham had just jumped into a running SUV and was driving away when the owner of the SUV fired one shot. The medical examiner reported the shot hit him in the head, and ruled his death a homicide.
“To me, it was an execution, he was driving away and he was shot in the back of the head,” she said. “It’s one thing to have someone you love taken from you accidentally, but to be shot needlessly? Our thought is, if he just wanted his car back, why didn’t he shoot for the tire?”
“I’d like it all undone, I’d like my grandson back,” Kaluza said tearfully. “I don’t wish ill will on people, but this gun violence has to stop.”
This thief was a professional criminal who broke the law by stealing other people’s properties. In my opinion, you open yourself up to consequences when you steal someone else’s property. But others disagree. What do you think?