Washington Man on Trial for Shooting Car Thief

ABC News(SPOKANE, Wash.) -- A Washington man is on trial Friday morning, accused of first-degree manslaughter for gunning down a man who was stealing his SUV.

Gail Gerlach, 56, walked outside his Spokane home to see Brendon Kaluza-Graham driving off in his SUV on March 25, 2013, so he fired a single shot from his 9mm semiautomatic from about 60 feet away.

The bullet went through the rear window and headrest, hitting Kaluza-Graham’s spine at the base of the skull and killing him almost instantly. Gerlach has a permit for the weapon.

Gerlach claims that he thought he saw Kaluza-Graham pointing a gun at him and 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 contend that it was physically impossible for Gerlach to see the victim as the car was driving off, that the windows were too tinted and dirty. Additionally, Kaluza-Graham was unarmed.

Prosecutors say Gerlach firing his gun was reckless and unnecessary.

The first-degree manslaughter charge requires proof that Gerlach acted recklessly. Gerlach, a self-employed plumber, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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