Police say Gail Gerlach, a 56-year-old plumber with no criminal record, shot and killed a car thief Monday morning.
No weapons were found in Gerlach’s stolen Chevrolet Suburban or on the body of Brendon Kaluza-Graham, 25.
Spokane County prosecutors have not charged Gerlach, an outspoken gun rights advocate, in the shooting death that prompted a police investigation of second-degree murder.
Police say Kaluza-Graham stole the 1997 Chevrolet Suburban left idling in Gerlach’s driveway on Monday morning. When Gerlach called 911 just before 8 a.m. that day, he told the dispatcher he had just shot an armed man, according to police.
Police recovered a flashlight, a screwdriver, a pair of gloves and two sets of keys – including multiple shaved keys – from the SUV after Kaluza-Graham’s death.
Kaluza-Graham died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head after driving the Chevy Suburban about two blocks before it crashed into a garage.
Gerlach told police that as the Suburban drove away, he saw the driver turn around and raise his arm. He saw what he thought was a gun and thought the thief was going to shoot at him, according to court records.
He then pulled his own gun, a 9 mm handgun, and fired a shot, according to court files. Police collected shattered pieces of tinted glass from the rear window of the Suburban, along with a child seat and a headrest.
Lt. Mark Griffiths said Gerlach had a permit to carry the pistol.
Griffiths said the investigation does not mean Gerlach will be charged.
The Gerlach family declined to comment Wednesday when reached by phone. Their lawyer advised them to refrain from making statements. Gerlach has written about his affinity for guns on his social media accounts.
In a Facebook post in Janurary, Gerlach wrote, “To all my new friends, A militia must be prepared today, tomorrow and forever!”
Gerlach’s publicly available social media posts include a slew of references to gun rights.
Another January post on his Facebook page was a photo of a man holding a gun, with the caption “I don’t register my 1st Amendment rights and I won’t register my 2nd Amendment rights either.”
Griffiths said the investigation is almost finished and the case will soon be handed to county prosecutors for a decision on charges.
He said investigators had not decided whether they would recommend charges.
“This is a more complicated investigation than some as far as the use of force, whether or not it was justified,” Griffiths said.