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Walla Walla After an hour of deliberation, the jury for the Coroner’s Inquest into the shooting death of Cesar Chavira by John Saul appeared to have reached a verdict late Thursday afternoon. Instead the jury foreman announced a 3-3 split.
The jury had been tasked with determining if John Saul had committed a justifiable or unjustifiable homicide May 4 when he fired five rounds from a 12 gauge shotgun, killing Chavira outside his business, the New York Store on Isaacs Avenue.
Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Gary Bolster, the lead investigator in the case, gave expert testimony on shotgun ballistics and the distances the weapon had been fired, striking Chavira.
“I see the first pellets probably striking at a distance of probably 120 feet,” Bolster said, adding later pellets likely were fired from roughly 155 feet, over 50 yards.
Forensic Pathologist Dr. Daniel Selove, who testified late Thurday morning, explained as many as 49, .24 caliber shotgun pellets had struck Chavira primarily from the rear, injuring both lungs and his aorta, causing rapid internal bleeding.
Testimony from Walla Walla Police Officers Wednesday indicated Saul, who had been sleeping in the rear of the New York Store, woke up when Chavira broke into the western wear store and stole several belts and silver belt buckles from a display case at the front of the store.
Saul, who did not testify during the inquest, told police shortly after the shooting that Chavira threatened him, and Saul defended himself. Bolster testified that Saul fired the five shotgun rounds from the front door of the store.
According to Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel, who is presiding over the inquest, the jury must reach a majority decision, and scheduled the six jurors to resume deliberations this morning at 9 a.m.
Mike Hubbard, Saul’s attorney, said he was surprised at the lack of a decision.
“We expected a unanimous decision this afternoon based on the instruction,” Hubbard said, referring to Blasdel’s instructions to the jury following testimony. “But we’ll let the jury do its work.”
Sandy Garcia, a longtime friend of the Chavira family said she was also disappointed the jury hadn’t reached a conclusion.
“I think they (witnesses and investigators) cleared everything up,” Garcia said. “With all the evidence out there, they (the jury) know what’s right.”