[Guest post by DRJ]
Last April, I posted on a case in which a Laredo, Texas, homeowner was indicted for murder after he shot and killed a 13-year-old who, with three friends, had broken into the homeowner’s mobile home looking for snacks.
Last week the Houston Chronicle reported the homeowner, Jose Luis Gonzalez, had been tried and acquitted of murder. Not surprisingly, defendant and his counsel were pleased with the verdict while the prosecutor and the deceased’s relatives were disappointed. For our purposes, what’s interesting is that the facts developed at trial paint a more detailed picture of what happened that night:
“The 63-year-old Gonzalez had endured several break-ins at his trailer when the four boys, ranging in age from 11-15, broke into the mobile home in July 2007. Gonzalez was in a nearby building at the time.
Gonzalez went into the trailer and confronted the boys with a 16-gauge shotgun. Then he forced the boys, who were unarmed, to their knees, attorneys on both sides say.
The boys say they were begging for forgiveness when Gonzalez hit them with the barrel of the shotgun and kicked them repeatedly. Then, the medical examiner testified, 13-year-old Francisco Anguiano was shot in the back at close range. Two mashed Twinkies and some cookies were stuffed in the pockets of his shorts.
Another boy, Jesus Soto Jr., now 16, testified that Gonzalez ordered them at gunpoint to take Anguiano’s body outside.
Gonzalez said he thought Anguiano was lunging at him when he fired the shotgun, claiming he feared for his life.”
Gonzalez’s defense counsel is running unopposed for DA in November. He was quoted strongly supporting the homeowner’s right to protect his life and property, not only in this case but “across the board.” Apparently Laredo residents share his view since the linked article states many local residents supported Gonzalez. The article suggested the community reaction was related to the widespread drug-related violence that has spilled over the border into Laredo from Mexico.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor is an assistant DA. His closing argument focused on when a homeowner is justified in using deadly force to protect property, and he described this as a case of vigilantism in which a “13-year-old boy was killed because a man was enraged.”
As an outsider, it sounds like there is truth to both sides of this story and that this may be a more complex tale than the Joe Horn case.
UPDATE 9/29/2008: I’ve found several links to earlier stories in the Laredo Morning Times, including this one in which the homeowner tells his side of the story:
“Isidro R. Alaniz – [the attorney] who Gonzalez hired Thursday after initially requesting the services of attorney Eduardo Jaime earlier in the week -said the shotgun blast that killed Francisco Anguiano, 13, was an accident. He said the shot came only because his client was defending himself and his property.
“He came face to face with four individuals ransacking his home,” Alaniz said. “He ordered them to stop, and he ordered them to get on their knees. Mr. Gonzalez feared for his life in this moment. When he ordered them to their knees, they refused.”
A standoff ensued. One of the teens, Alaniz said, made a motion toward Gonzalez. Alaniz said that it was then that Gonzalez began to strike the teens with the barrel end of the shotgun and, while trying to get Anguiano to kneel, the gun went off.
Anguiano refused to kneel, Alaniz said. “In the commotion, the weapon went off and he was shot.”
During most of the meeting Thursday afternoon, a tired-looking Gonzalez remained quiet and rarely spoke. He nodded or shook his head when questions were asked, preferring to let Alaniz speak.
Alaniz said that recent statements made by one of the survivors were false.
Tuesday the teen in question said that while Anguiano lay bleeding on the floor, Gonzales continued to point the weapon at the other teens and strike them. Those allegations, Alaniz said, were not true.
“That, we maintain, is a fabrication,” Alaniz said. “We maintain those statements are self-serving statements.”
He added that although the sheriff’s department interpreted the allegations as true, he is confident that a jury would not.
“I myself do not understand the rationale being used by the sheriff’s department, plain and simple. They are taking the word of these kids,” Alaniz said. He added that he was surprised that the teens have not been charged with any crime.
Alaniz also said that the entire event took less than a minute, not more than five as the teen said.
“When the gun went off, everyone was in shock,” he said. “It happened so fast.”
I haven’t found an article that verifies whether Gonzalez testified at trial but I suspect he must have. If he did, the jury clearly found his story credible.