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Dori Monson
chevy suburban SUV ap photo
Brendon Kaluza-Graham was trying to steal a Chevy Suburban, similar to the car pictured, when he was shot and killed by the car's owner. Now that man is being charged with manslaughter. (AP Photo)

Spokane homeowner who shot carjacker charged with manslaughter

Dori thinks it should be legal to use deadly force to protect your property, but Spokane prosecutors disagree. They announced Wednesday that they are charging Gail Gerlach, who shot and killed a carjacker, with First Degree Manslaughter.

According to reports, 56-year-old Gail Herbert Gerlach had left his Chevy Suburban running in his driveway to warm it up on a cold day in March when Brendon Kaluza-Graham tried to drive away with it. Gail fired his gun, hitting Brendon in the head and killing him.

Gail said he saw Brendon raise his arm in his direction; he thought Brendon had a gun. But police later searched the car and didn't find a weapon.

After the shooting, KREM TV reported that Kaluza-Graham had been caught stealing cars four times in the past, and had been convicted of assaulting a police officer. Police report that he'd had multiple run-ins with law enforcement where he had been armed with knives.

"For a guy who's lived a law-abiding life," said Dori, "and a criminal jumps into his vehicle, jumps into his life, and he instinctively used the gun he was legally carrying to stop his Chevy Suburban - which is a key part of his livelihood - now this 56-year-old guy may spend a good portion of the rest of his life in prison. Is that justice?"

The thief's grandparents, who raised him, called him a "sweet kid" who made some mistakes in life. His grandmother said he was trying to turn his life around and she was trying to find him a job.

"He (Brendon) was much loved," said grandmother Ann Kaluza. "I know taking the car was wrong, but it's not a capital crime he needed to be executed for."

After the initial investigation, Spokane's Major Crimes Detectives did not recommend that Gail be charged with a crime in this case.

Gail's attorney released the following statement:

"Mr. Gerlach is disappointed in this charging decision. He is looking forward to resolving this matter in court."

Jillian Raftery, KIRO Radio Editor
Jillian Raftery is an afternoon editor at KIRO Radio. She loves the neighborly vibe of the Pacific Northwest and spends as much time as possible outdoors.
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