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Young prowler shot breaking and entering

Excerpted from story that originally ran here as:
Police say car dealer probably won't face charges in shooting

By Bill Hendricks
San Antonio Express-News,


A used car dealer probably won't face criminal charges for shooting a 12-year-old boy he caught breaking into the business with two other youths, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

While saying that detectives haven't completed their investigation into the near-fatal encounter early Monday, police Sgt. Gabriel Trevino noted that state law gives property owners the right to use deadly force to protect their homes and businesses from thieves and vandals.

No decision has been made on whether to seek criminal charges in the case, Trevino said.

Police took statements from the car lot operator and two youths who entered the building along with the 12-year-old boy. No arrests were made.

One of the boys, 16-year-old Arthur Medrano, said in an interview that he and the two other youths climbed a fence and entered the car lot office hoping to find property they could sell.

State law, Trevino added, gives property owners even greater discretion when the owner perceives a threat to property at night.

According to a police report, car lot operator Gabriel Corona Jr. said he shot the boy with a shotgun after he heard someone enter the building about 2:30 a.m.

Corona's father said that his son feared for his life when he fired at shadowy figures that he saw coming toward him in the darkness. The father said his son didn't learn until hours later that the intruder he had shot was only 12 years old.

The wounded boy, Gomer Silva, was listed in good condition Tuesday at Wilford Hall Medical Center.

Bleeding from shotgun pellet wounds to his right side, the youngster was admitted to Wilford Hall early Monday in critical condition.

Former District Attorney Steve Hilbig said state law allows people to defend their property but at the same time gives the district attorney room to seek criminal charges when prosecutors believe the property owner used excessive force.

In some of the most intensely publicized cases in recent years, Bexar County and South Texas juries have acquitted property owners charged with crimes after they killed people who came onto their property.

Five years ago, a jury acquitted a retired San Antonio police officer charged with aggravated assault in the shooting death of one teen-ager and wounding of another teen.

The officer, still on the force at the time of the shooting, and his 16-year-old son were alleged to have fired on the two teen-agers from their rooftop.

Jurors told prosecutors after acquitting the retired officer that they found he and his son were justified in using deadly force to protect their home and property.

That same year, two men and a woman were charged in the death of a 17-year-old boy who was shot in the back while running away from a nightclub building the youth had marked with graffiti.

Lawyer Jay Norton, who represented the woman in that case, said Tuesday that all charges had been dismissed after investigation showed the fatal shot hadn't been fired at the fleeing youngster but instead had ricocheted off an object before inflicting the fatal wound.

At the same time, Norton said that if the charge hadn't been dropped, he was ready to argue that state law gave his client the right to use lethal force in a case where property had been damaged in the gloom of night.

Norton said property owners in Texas have stronger legal protections to defend their homes than residents in some other states.

In a more recent case, a Uvalde County jury acquitted country music performer Johnny Rodriguez on a murder charge in the shooting death of a man inside the Rodriguez home in Sabinal.

Norton, who represented Rodriguez, said in a final statement to the jury that "you have the right to be safe in your own home," and his partner, lawyer Alan Brown, told the panel that the right to be safe in your home and property was fundamental in American life.

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