Family sues man for fatally shooting son in driveway

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - The family of the man killed in a shooting is now suing the man who pulled the trigger. They say money is only part of what they want.
 
Channel 2 Action News has been following this controversial case since last year.
 
Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh spoke to the family's attorney, who says there's no justification for this deadly shooting.
 
"I cannot imagine what justified such a negligent act,” said attorney Christine Koehler.
 
The alleged act of negligence caused the death of Rodrigo Diaz, 22.
 
In January 2013, Diaz and three teenage friends drove to Hillcrest Drive on a Saturday night to pick up a friend.
 
The teens said the GPS steered them into the wrong driveway.
 
"They had been on the phone with her, thought they pulled in the right driveway and believed that she'd be coming out any minute,” Koehler said.
 
Instead, Phillip Sailors, 70, came out. He told police he thought he was about to be the victim of a home invasion. He fired two shots. Investigators say the second hit Diaz in the head.
 
"From what we can tell, he just randomly fired into the vehicle," Koehler said.
 
She says they are patiently waiting for the criminal process to play out. But they also have moved forward civilly, filing a suit seeking nearly $140,000 in hospital and funeral expenses.
 
Koehler says what’s most important to the family is letting the community know Diaz wasn’t doing anything wrong the night he was killed.
 
Police charged Sailors with malice murder. He has been out on bond since the week of the shooting.
 
Sailors’ attorney, Mike Puglise, says he agrees with at least the premise of the suit.
 
"It should be determined by civil jury, definitely not any criminal wrongdoing,” he said. “And the complaint is absent two words that are key words: punitive and malice."
 
"This is not a stand-your-ground case and no matter where you stand on that or Second Amendment rights, this is not that situation,” Koehler said.
 
Koehler says she also has concerns with how the teenage witnesses were treated after the shooting.
 
"The students were detained, placed in handcuffs, transported to the police department and held overnight in holding cells," she said.
 
The Gwinnett County district attorney’s office confirms the high school students were in cells while the shooting suspect, Sailors was in a break room.
 
Police would not comment on the treatment of the witnesses or Sailors the night the investigation began.

“The Lilburn Police Department will not comment further on the Sailors case, because it has been turned over to the District Attorney's Office,” Nikki Perry, Lilburn public relations manager, said in an email.



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