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.

57 Responses to No Charges Against Walla Walla Shopkeeper. But Don’t Try This At Home

  1. Good for John Saul. While I don’t completely agree with or condone what he did, I certainly understand.
    Although I think everyone can agree that 5 shots of rock-salt to the back of an unarmed fleeing burg is a bit excessive, but this bad guy did break into this mans home. Like I said, I don’t agree with it but I certainly understand.

    • I 100% condone and agree with what he did. If you don’t want to get shot, then you don’t be a murderer / thief / rapist. It’s that simple. This man made the world a better place by doing what he did.

    • Just because the criminal is running away doesn’t mean they’re not still a threat. He might have been running for cover from which to return fire. It is some serious Monday morning quarterbacking to calmly judge the righteousness of the shooting in the safety of our homes. Every defense lawyer in a case like this should have a copy of the scene in “Romancing the Stone” where Danny DeVito is running away and shooting blindly behind him to show the jury. Is there any doubt that should the good guy run out of ammo or their gun jams that many a bad guy will turn around and reassert his dominance? The threat is still there until it isn’t a threat anymore…

  2. We are either a nation of laws or not. The law forbidding the use of deadly force when there is no threat is a good law and in no way immoral. The dead man may have been a bad apple and may have deserved it, but he didn’t appear to have deserved it at this time from this man.

    I would have preferred a criminal lawsuit so that the family wouldn’t profit, but if a civil lawsuit is all that’s left to punish this murderer, then so be it.

    • We’re not a nation of laws. There’s crime that goes unpunished, criminals that get set free, stupid jurors, and laws that shouldn’t even exist.

    • We are a nation of laws. When evil-doers break those laws, what moral right do they have to claim protection under those laws?

      Chivara entered Saul’s property with bad intent. I have no issue with how Saul chose to respond.

    • I mostly agree with Skyler on this one. Shooting a man in the back while he’s fleeing, even though he’s a thief, just isn’t good policy. But what the hell is a criminal lawsuit?

  3. Another good reason we keep trained guard dogs in the store at night in addition to the alarm system. Rather clean up some poop than face a lawsuit.

      • Hopefully his stays in his pants. They aren’t our dogs but from a professional company. Even though we have good laws about such things it only covers criminal charges and not civil litigation. Criminals are more afraid of dogs than an armed person I think. And signs are posted all over about their presence.

        • You can negotiate with a person. Dogs do what they’re trained to do, and that usually involves biting and making noise. Making noise may result in an armed person showing up, and nobody wants to be bitten.

  4. Can’t say for a second I find this to be justifiable, regardless of the burglar’s criminal history. Once a man is running you are no longer preventing a crime or protecting yourself, you are avenging the crime which is not legal nor should be.

  5. Have ANY of you ever been on the wrong side of a gang or had to face “gang justice” for offending a member in some way, shape, or form?

    Not only was this guy defending his home, his family, and his place of business, but he made sure to send a message to all of his other “homies on da block” that they will not find an easy or willing mark in this shop keeper, but a hail of lead all day long if they even think of coming back.

    That is the ONLY message animals in gangs will understand or respect, the law of the jungle. That is the only law (if any) that they follow for the most part and if the price of revenge for killing one their own is too steep then they won’t do it face to face.

    More likely the retaliation against this shopkeeper will come from a cowards point of view than directly confronting him, like attacking his family while un-protected or burning his store to the ground while they are sleeping inside.

    I agree with what he did and hope he has what it takes to either finish this ugly vendetta or pick up and move himself, family, & store, lock-stock-and barrel to another country with all the free money that Obumbles gives to local businesses to do so as long as some americans lose their jobs over it.

    • Have ANY of you ever been on the wrong side of a gang or had to face “gang justice” for offending a member in some way, shape, or form?

      Yes. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away called The Bronx, I was in just such a situation. It was an unpleasant time, but I’m still here, and nobody died.

      For the most part, gangs are sellouts and punks. If another gang shoots one of their own, they retaliate as a matter of street etiquette because it’s a continuing threat and a source of embarrassment. If a civilian shoots one of them, mostly they spray paint his building with harsh words. I’m guessing that Mr. Saul will be fine.

      • You hope. It doesn’t take much research to find incidents where gangs retaliated after a victim had the temerity to fight back.

        Several years ago, in Los Angeles, a jewelry store owner survived several gunfights with gang bangers attempting armed robbery of his store. One would think they would learn after the first couple of failures, but they kept on trying and losing. He finally closed his store after the gangs threatened to target his customers outside the store.

        In my city, an armed robber ordered his victim not to report the robbery. He did anyway and the robber sent one of his relatives to murder the victim in retaliation. The victim survived but will have a long convalescence.

        • Probably because in the anti-Constitutional cesspool known as CA there is no such thing as a lawfully armed average citizen. Without the appropriate political connections the only choices in CA are to be a victim, an outlaw, or move to a free state. Even if one has the political connections the self-defense laws are tilted in favor of the predator and not the victim.

  6. In Texas this would be open and shut if the departed Chavira had any merchandise on his body at the time of death. Because those silly Texans have this strange notion that you have the right to defend not only yourself, but your property.

    Some will disagree, but I take the firm stance that the moment one begins on the act of burglary/breaking-and-entering, their life is forfeit. If Chavira had gotten away unscathed, there is a high probability he would have impacted other innocent victims’ lives with continued burglary attempts.

    While some will say there is innate value in human life, I question that when the life in question subsists wholly on the welfare and ill-gotten property of others.

  7. In the Great Republic of Texas, this probably wouldn’t have even gone to jury!

    Why? Because he was protecting his property, and preventing multiple crimes in progress.

    And in the great Republic of Texas , you can use deadly force to do just that.

  8. Wow, just wow… I just don’t understand this sentiment about killing a man who is running away with stolen property. If there isn’t impending violence against a store owner, employee patron or other innocent party, it’s an equation that, to me, just doesn’t add up.

    • Aaron, it isnt about his “stealing” anything.

      It is ALL about protecting himself from a gang.

      Try doing some research on “gang violence” and “gang retaliation” and you will quickly see that if you respond with anything less than total all-out, balls-to-the-walls violence, you will incure a neverending stream of other gang members constant retaliation against you, your family, and your business until YOU ARE DEAD or you give up,cut your losses, and move away.

      Look and listen to the thousands of victims of gangs and the way they do their “business” and you will see that this guy did the only thing he could short of tucking-tale and running for the hills.

    • What most people don’t get about theft is that theft actually steals from the victims life.

      To explain: People are on this earth for a finite time. A good portion of a person’s life is spent acquiring what is needed to survive along with acquiring comforts which help to make life more enjoyable. When a thief steals, the thief is not only taking an object, the thief is also taking the portion of a life that was used to acquire said convenience. On top of that, the thief is also stealing the portion of a life that will be used to deal with the police and also the time required to replace the stolen object.

      In short, those who dismiss theft do not respect life.

    • Aaron, It’s like this. It’s my shit. If you try to steal it from me I’ll shoot you in the fucking face.

      Stuff is too hard to come by and a person should be able to do whatever is necessary to protect their property.

      You don’t want to get shot, don’t steal. I’m food with that.

  9. Anyone else find the stores name ironic?

    “That car looked so tempting, so easy to drive,
    Just like that apartment that you burglarized,
    You started to run, but didn’t get far,
    Cause under your arm was a VCR”

  10. A citizen, but not a cop, can shoot a fleeing burglar in the back in Texas. That’s why it’s Texas, a shining Lone Star.

    • Only if the jury believes that you had a reasonable belief that there would be no other way to recover your property.

      • OR if the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.

  11. but the store owner didn’t live in texas. i agree with the general drift here but we have to deal with the realities of our own locations. tempting as it is, if he’s running away and not firing at you, don’t shoot him. in ca i would be looking at jail time with his homies for doing just that.

    • As well as losing the civil suit and handing everything you own over to the deceased’s relatives. You may or may not agree with it, but that’s the reality here in CA. I’m not handing everything I own over to some dirtbag out of a lack of self-control. That’s why I pay for insurance.

      On the plus side, CA has a very strong castle doctrine, if in fear for my life I will act accordingly.

  12. Ten bucks says the owner won’t get robbed again.

    Ten billion bucks says the criminal won’t rob anyone again.

  13. When a person is confronting by a threat of extreme physical danger, violation, and/or death it needs to be recognized by the law that the human flight or freight ancient old or first brain kicks in taking over with the defender’s mission to SURVIVE. If a criminal crosses the line, in a realistic sense, then the law needs to show a greater degree of flexibility to the human defender. I can understand the man’s fight response anger-adrenaline rush and fear kicking in (and what if the criminal comes back again?) and to then shooting at the fleeing criminal. Our primal instincts and emotions are still part of what makes us human. A confrontation with a criminal is not a safe casual discussion in a Law 101 Classroom.

    • i do agree with your reasoning, but again, i live in ca. never put youself in a moment of anger in a place where you spend years trying to recover from that moment.

      • Agreed, especially in consideration of the modern legalistic society that we live in that often denies human nature and common sense.

  14. One of the main rules for dgu is that the d must have validity. If the thug is running away with his back to you and has done no physical harm to anyone, call your insurance company and 911. Mr. Saul, if given a chance to re-do this event, might be of the same opinion now, after the fact. What he will spend for legal defense, even if he is not formally charged, will probably be multiples the amount he lost due to theft. When in such a situation our self control is to not allow revenge or anger to take the place of defense. We are not God.

  15. This all could have been prevented by Cesar Chavira simply deciding to not rob the store. As soon as he made the choice to do something a) outside the law and b) stupid, everything else that happened is on him.

    The same applies to the store owner. What he chose to do might or might not count as defense in his local. So he might or might not have to put up with a lawsuit.

    That said, I do empathize with the store owner. The attempted robber forced him into a situation and he had to make a decision. Furthermore the article states that they live in the back of the store. So if the store owner confronted the robber in the store, the robber could be 100 feet away from the owner and still be a good distance away from an exit, all while under the same roof as the store owner’s family. What if he’s running to just get around the end on an aisle? Who says he doesn’t come back with a gun?

  16. So someone cannot run away to gain tactical advantage?

    Total BS.

    Saul did the right thing. If he does get sued, hopefully he sets up a paypal so I can donate to his defense fund just as I did for Mr. Zimmerman.

  17. I am a person that will side with the civilian in most cases when they use a gun to defend their life , or home. But I am sorry this was wrong , the guy could of been a know criminal , could of been a POS, that deserved it , but at the end of the day he was human and at that moment in time posing no danger to anyone. I sympathize with Saul’s frustration and anger, but in my eyes Saul is a killer and a extremely bad example of what most CCW I know are like. I am never without a gun , and every day when I leave my house I ask god to protect me from every having to take a life. My guns are life saving tools , not instruments for rage or revenge !!!

    • So how do you know the predator wasn’t seeking cover or concealment to attack the store owner?

      You don’t.

      The act of forcing oneself into someone else’s domicile removes all “benefit of the doubt” reasoning when dealing with that person.

      As long as they are inside my property, they are a direct threat and will be dealt with as such. Luckily the laws in my state agree with that. At that point, I can be proactive, not reactive.

      • Derek I totaly agree with you when you say:

        “As long as they are inside my property, they are a direct threat and will be dealt with as such”

        But where I have the big problem with this , is the POS was in the street outside the store when Saul fired. Where is the threat

        And as far as your claim of “seeking cover or concealment”

        Say in your store under cover point your gun at the crook call the cops. What’s true today was true 2500 years ago , sun tzu said “It is useless for a general to attack a solid, well-defended position”

        I stick with my original opinion , Mr. Saul was wrong in shooting and does not represent the CCW community I know and love. We are not warmonger or opportunistic killers. We are moral people that respect life!

        • If I have a shot I will take the shot as long as the Arizona Revised Statutes justifies my use of force.

          Call the cops while holding someone at gunpoint and you might just end up like Tony Arambula. Not risking my life and health over the safety of some worthless goblin.

  18. Not sure if Washington has the castle doctrine, but if they do, this is the correct call on the prosecutors part. Why? Once you breach my homes security defenses. Which in this case, is also a store. You’ve defeated the locks and are now inside the place, you have NO RIGHT TO BE! You deserve what you get. Just because someone is shot in the back, doesn’t mean it’s not justified. Just like doing a failure drill on a perp, can easily be explained in court. 2 to center of mass and one to the head. If the 2 in the chest didn’t stop him, shutting down command and control, i.e. the brain, is a legal option.

    Moral of the story, Don’t be breaking into businesses in the middle of the night, you might find it’s also someones home and you might just end up dead!

    • He was shot on the street not inside , read my post above yours. In Florida as soon as the crook is outside your property and running away , you can’t shoot him in the back

  19. If the creep is running away you should take cover and keep him in the cross hairs in case he does try something, but to preemptively shoot the guy in the back without an identifiable threat, man, that doesn’t wash and that goes for LE as well. There is too much needless killing. That was a life, low to be sure, but my conscious would not bare killing someone over money or things unless it were a SHTF environment. Remember those vids of the guy in the Internet cafe and the jewelry store owner? The one thing that the cowardly thugs left behind was a puddle of piss. Granted, some of these thugs might deserve a few just on GPs but do you really want that following you around. And let’s stay real, what about the money you’ll spend on lawyers, etc. Run from me without doing harm, I’ll let him go. Stop and turn THEN I’ll do my best to take the SOB out.

    • Arizona has a law that simply and clearly states, “There is no civil liability for justified use of force.” If the internet cafe shooting would have happened in Arizona and the lawfully armed citizen would have put multiple rounds from a 9mm or larger handgun center-of-mass on both targets that person would be out exactly $0 for lawyers fees. They wouldn’t lose their gun either.

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