WALLA WALLA — The mother of a man killed following a burglary at the New York Store last year has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against owner John Saul, who shot the fleeing intruder.
The civil complaint by Camerina Alejandre, seeking an unspecified amount of money for various claimed damages, was filed Thursday in Walla Walla County Superior Court.
Alejandre acknowledges her son, Cesar Chavira Jr., 22, was trespassing at the store at 2254 Isaacs Ave. on May 4, 2012, but says he quickly left the building when he realized he had awakened Saul, who was sleeping on a mattress on the floor.
Saul armed himself with a shotgun and, as Chavira was fleeing, started shooting Chavira after he was more than 100 feet away from the store’s entrance, according to the suit.
Saul fired the gun at Chavira’s back five times as Chavira “continuously attempted (to) distance himself from the store and the shotgun blasts to save his own life,” the suit says.
It further claims the blasts struck Chavira with about 49 pellets before he collapsed about 250 feet away from the store.
A coroner’s inquest jury in August 2012 ruled that Saul committed a justifiable homicide. Shortly after, Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle decided not to file a criminal charge against him.
In his decision, Nagle noted that the state Legislature and Supreme Court have made it clear that a person should not be charged with murder or manslaughter “when they are defending themselves, their property, or against a felony, unless the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove the absence of any of the defenses to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”
But the burden of proof in civil lawsuits, such as the one filed by Alejandre, is a lower standard called “preponderance of the evidence,” which means her claims must be more likely than not true for her to prevail.
The suit maintains Saul violated his duty as the owner of the store “not to commit willful or wanton misconduct against trespassers.”
As a result of Saul’s alleged wrongful assault and battery, Alejandre and Chavira’s estate want money to compensate for past and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress and medical and out-of-pocket expenses.
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.