Gerlach shooting probe nearly complete
Nearly four weeks after northeast Spokane resident Gail Gerlach shot and killed a man who was stealing his Chevrolet Suburban, the investigation into a possible murder charge is not yet finished, though it is nearing completion, police say.
Authorities are awaiting toxicology test results on the man who was shot, Brendon Kaluza-Graham.
Spokane police detectives also were asked by the Spokane County prosecutor’s office to conduct further investigation. Jack Driscoll, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, wouldn’t specify what that work entailed.
The prosecutor’s office will determine whether the shooting warrants a second-degree murder charge or if it should be considered justifiable homicide.
Police say Kaluza-Graham stole the 1997 Chevrolet Suburban left idling in Gerlach’s driveway on March 25. When Gerlach called 911, he told a dispatcher he had just shot an armed man; his bullet hit Kaluza-Graham in the back of the head. No weapon was found in the truck.
Although the prosecutor’s office has received most of the investigation, “we are waiting for a full and complete investigation before we make a decision,” Driscoll said.
Police officials would not say what, if any, bearing the toxicology report has in the case.
But “the autopsy report is part of the police investigation, and the toxicology report is part of the autopsy report,” said spokeswoman Monique Cotton. “Until the autopsy report is complete, the overall police investigation is not complete.”
Toxicology tests are performed in all suspicious death cases. County medical examiner offices send samples of blood, and sometimes urine, to the Washington State Patrol’s Toxicology Laboratory Division in Seattle. Generally, the samples are tested for blood-alcohol level and drugs.
“What we test for depends on the case,” said Brian Capron, supervisor of the lab. “In a death case, at a minimum we do blood-alcohol level … the lab’s drug panel can screen for more than 100 drugs, both illicit and prescription.”
The average toxicology report takes 16 or 17 days, Capron said. “Six to eight weeks, they (police) throw that around a lot, it kind of annoys me, but it depends on the case.”
He added, “If we find a drug that we usually don’t see, such as spice or bath salts, we might have to send the sample out for additional testing, and that adds time.”
Driscoll would not estimate how long his office will take to make a decision about a possible charge against Gerlach once the office receives the complete investigation.