John Saul, the owner of Walla Walla, Washington’s oddly-named New York Store, will not face criminal charges for shooting and killing a known gang member who broke into his store in the middle of the night last May. We’ve reported on this story before, (twice in fact) and I doubt it will end with this post since a civil lawsuit is a-brewing on behalf of the burglar. Whatever you might do in a DGU, don’t do what Saul did . . .
The county prosecutor took the unusual step of convening a coroner’s inquest and detectives described the events to the jury. Gang-banger Cesar Chavira broke into the store late at night, awakening the Sauls who lived in the back of their store. Mr. Saul grabbed his shotgun and shot Chavira five times in the back as he ran away from 120 to 155 feet. Chavira was hit with 50 pellets and, not surprisingly, bled out at the scene.
Those facts don’t exactly lend themselves to an ironclad self-defense claim and the inquest jury didn’t unanimously agree that Chavira’s death was a justifiable homicide. But they still swung Saul’s way by a 4-2 margin and that was enough political cover for Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle to decline filing criminal charges against the shopkeeper.
I’ll say it: John Saul got lucky. Washington state law protects the right of self defense, but leaving your home to shoot at the back of a fleeing burglar who never displayed a weapon is stretching the doctrine of self-defense to its very breaking point. If Chevira weren’t already a notorious criminal – or if this happened in a more urban and less gun-friendly county – John Saul would be facing a charge of manslaughter.