Death of Man Shot While Stealing A Car Being Investigated As Mur - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Death of Man Shot While Stealing A Car Being Investigated As Murder

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SPOKANE, Wash – It's an unfortunate shooting that has polarized the Inland Northwest: was the shooting death of man killed while in the process of stealing a car a justified shooting?

While there is still no definite answer, we are learning more about the moments that lead up to the shooting in the 1400 block of N. Lee in Spokane just before 8 a.m. Monday.

Court records released Wednesday show that Spokane Police are investigating the shooting death of Brendon Kaluza-Graham, 25, as second-degree murder.  However, nobody has been charged in the crime.

Records show Gail Gerlach, 56, told police he left his SUV running in his driveway and stepped into the garage.  But when he came out, a man was in the driver's seat backing the SUV out.  Gerlach called 911 and chased after his SUV on foot down N. Lee. But then, records show, he saw the man in the driver's seat turn around, raise his arm, and Gerlach saw what he thought was a gun.

He told police he thought the man, later identified as Kaluza-Graham, was going to shoot, so he pulled out his 9 mm and fired one shot into the SUV. 

The medical examiner reported that shot hit Kaluza-Graham in the head, and he died at the scene two blocks from where the SUV was stolen.

Gerlach does have a concealed weapons permit, and police say the 9 mm was on his body when the SUV was stolen.  Gerlach owns a local plumbing business founded by his father.

Police explained a little more Wednesday about why the case is being investigated as second-degree murder, but no charges have been filed.

"If you look on the search warrant it says ‘name the felony herein,' so that's the crime we're investigating," Spokane Police Lt. Mark Griffiths said, referring to the warrant to search the stolen SUV for evidence.  "That doesn't mean we're going to find evidence of that crime, but that is what we are looking for."

Lt. Griffiths said the case could still boil down to self-defense; that determination will be up to the prosecutor.  Spokane Police may make a recommendation on whether charges should be filed, but have not decided whether they will.

In searching the SUV in which Kaluza-Graham was shot and killed, police did not find a weapon.

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