Jury decides shooting at New York Store is justified
A six person jury in Walla Walla County decides a business owner who shot and killed a suspected robber outside his store last May is justified.
This verdict isn't legally binding.
It's just something for county prosecutors to consider as they decide whether or not charge the store's owner, John Saul, with any crime.
But the family of Cesar Chavira, who died in the shooting, says they're not waiting.
After today, they plan to file a lawsuit.
Friends and family of 22 year-old Cesar Chavira sat motionless as they were told Chavira's controversial death last May was justified.
"Obviously, we are very disappointed at the verdict. We thought there was clear evidence that this was not a justifiable homicide" said Michelle Trombley, Chavira family attorney.
A six person jury reached the verdict this morning after deliberating for about an hour and 15 minutes.
Last night, the jury was split 3 - 3 on the decision.
But today, one or more people changed their mind, after they were told they didn't need to write down how they were going to vote individually, instead they only needed to publish the group's verdict.
"This is such a emotional case. Some of them were concerned about some retaliations if they voted one way or the other" said Dan Blasdel, presiding coroner.
Over the past two days, the jury heard testimony detailing what took place the morning of May 4th at the New York Store on East Isaacs Avenue.
Investigators say the store's owner, John Saul - who sleeps at the store, shot Cesar Chavira with a shotgun.
They believe Chavira was in the street outside when Saul shot him from the doorway of his store, which is about 120 feet away.
Detectives say Saul fired five rounds, and Chavira was hit with 49 pellets, most of them hit his back.
Saul claims Chavira broke into his store and he shot him in self defense.
Police found several belts from the store a few feet away from Chavira's body.
A friend of Saul's says she is pleased with the jury's verdict.
"If he hadn't been there, he wouldn't have been shot. Yeah, he was leaving. Who knows if he was coming back in an hour with five other people, who knew if they were gonna come back the next night. Who knew if he was gonna come right back there in 10 minutes from a car with a gun and say, 'oh, I see you're alone, I'll just take care of this'" said Karin Western.
The case will now go to the county prosecutor, who will decide if charges should be filed.
Today's decision has no legal weight, but prosecutors will take the verdict into consideration.
"This is just another piece of the puzzle to us" said Walla Walla County Prosecutor Jim Nagle.
For Chavira's family however, their fight isn't over.
"Regardless of what the prosecutor decides to do, if he decides to file, regardless of the verdict today, the family will be filing a civil lawsuit for the unlawful death of Mr. Chavira" said Trombley.
We spoke with John Saul's attorney today.
He says he is pleased with the verdict, and is relieved this debate is over.
Nagle says he has no timeline for when he plans to make a decision on filing any charges.
Blasdel says he has presided over two other coroner inquests.
He says in both cases, the prosecutors agreed with the jury's decision.