(LILBURN, Ga.) — An elderly Georgia missionary claims he shot a young man approaching his house this weekend because he feared a home invasion, but the victim’s friends say he was looking to pick up a pal to go skating and his GPS device took him to the wrong driveway.
“This was an unfortunate, tragic event and our department is in the process of investigating the incident,” Lilburn Police Chief Bruce Hedley told ABC News.
Phillip Sailors, 69, has been charged with murder and is being held in jail without bond.
Police responded to a Lilburn, Ga., home on Saturday night around 10:15 p.m. where shots had been fired and there was shouting.
Officer Matthew Price wrote in a police report that when he arrived he saw a red Mitsubishi with “a Hispanic male subject, slumped over in the driver’s seat, blood covering his face and top of his head. The subject had labored breathing and was unresponsive.”
The man was later identified as Rodrigo Diaz, 22.
A girl with blood on her jeans, arms and hands was “screaming frantically that her boyfriend had been shot.”
Two other male passengers were in the driveway as well as Sailors.
“The guy [Sailors] came out. He went in again and he came out with a gun in his hand and he shot into the air,” passenger Yeson Jimenez, 15, told ABC News Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV.
He told WSB-TV that they were going to pick up a girl who lived in the area to go ice skating when their GPS system took them to the wrong house.
The friends said that Sailors shot at the car when they were trying to leave.
Sailors’ attorney Mike Puglise said that two of the people from the car had approached the house while Sailors and his wife were inside.
“This particular area has a pretty high crime rate, a lot of home invasions, drug trafficking, just not pleasant activity in the area,” Puglise told ABC News. “What he processed was that this was for all practical purposes a home invasion, an attack on his property and his life and unfortunately it resulted in a loss of life while he was defending his home.”
Puglise said that the house next door to Sailors’ had been broken into in the past two weeks.
He said his client did not have a conversation with the people and that “everything happened very, very quickly.”
Sailors’ shot hit Diaz in the head, causing “severe damage to the brain and bones in the skull,” according to the police report.
Diaz was taken to a hospital where surgery was performed, but he died in the ICU, according to police.
Diaz’s brother David Diaz-Valencia told ABC News that the family was not ready to talk about their loss and that they were letting the police handle the situation.
Puglise said that Sailors and his family are “distraught” over the death.
“The family’s heart goes out to the family of the young man that was lost and it’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “Mr. Sailors has cooperated 100 percent with the investigation and he will continue to cooperate.”
Puglise described Sailors as an honorably discharged military veteran, a Christian missionary active in his church and a bus driver with no criminal history.
There is a preliminary hearing scheduled for Sailors on Thursday.
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