Father speaks out over son shot after pulling into wrong driveway

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

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LILBURN, Ga. - The father of a man fatally shot after mistakenly pulling into the wrong driveway, is speaking out about his son's death.

Holding back tears, Rodrigo Diaz Sr. told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh he spent the evening in the hospital Saturday night with the rest of his family, praying for the recovery of his son, Rodrigo Diaz Jr.

Diaz said doctors told him his son was in very bad shape and a short time later the 23-year-old man died from the gunshot wound to his head.

Earlier in the evening, the younger Diaz was driving around with a group of teenaged friends heading to pick up another.

Friends who were in the car told Channel 2 Action News they mistakenly pulled into the wrong driveway along Hillcrest Drive in Lilburn.

"The guy came out. He went in again. And he came out with a gun in his and he shot to the air," Jason Jimenez, 15, told Channel 2 Action News.

The homeowner was Phillip Sailors, 69.

When the first shot rang out, Jimenez said Diaz tried to speed out of the driveway. But then Sailors fired a second shot, which struck Diaz's head.

"He shot first and then asked who, who was really there," Diaz, Sr. said.

The next day, police arrested Sailors for malice murder.

"We maintain Mr. Sailors' innocence. I can tell you Mr. Sailors most certainly thought he was defending his life, his wife's and protecting his home," said attorney Mike Puglise.

Puglise said when Sailors and his wife heard noises outside their home, they thought someone was trying to break in.

"He knew this was not normal. Something was out of the ordinary. Something was wrong," Puglise said.

Puglise said the neighborhood has become a hot spot for gang and drug activity and all that factored into Sailors' decision to run outside with his gun.

He also claims Diaz accelerated towards him in the car, forcing him to fire the fatal shot.

Diaz said there is too much violence. He hopes his son's story will make others think before they shoot.

He told Kavanaugh his family can take some comfort in knowing Rodrigo's life could save others. The family donated all of his organs.

Sailors' attorney told Kavanaugh he is a Vietnam War veteran and Christian missionary.

Rev. Chris Anderson of Killian Hill Baptist Church emailed a statement about Sailors, saying, "Mr. Sailors is a longstanding and active member of our church. He is a good man who has devoted his life to serving others, and his reputation in our community has been unblemished for over 40 years. Our church is saddened by this tragic situation. We are praying for the Diaz family, the Sailors family, and the Lilburn community."

Diaz Sr. said his family was granted political asylum to come to the United States escaping violence in Colombia.

He said his son was a student at Gwinnett Tech and was a good kid who wanted to be a mechanic.

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