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Attorney: Increased Crime Made Client Wary

The attorney for Phillip Sailors, of Lilburn, said his client thought he was about to be run over when he fired the fatal shot.

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published January 31, 2013.)

Update: Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.: Slaying Suspect Granted Bond, Released

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The attorney of a man charged with murder in Lilburn says his client feared for his life when he fired the fatal shot that killed a 22-year-old Duluth man.

Phillip Sailors, 69, later was arrested and charged with murder. Rodrigo Diaz, 22, the victim, died from his injuries at Gwinnett Medical Center.

Diaz's family has said that a GPS took them to Sailors' driveway by mistake and that he was shot as he pulled away from the home.

As a man who has done Christian missionary work, Sailors is "just not the type of individual that's going around looking to shoot at people without just reason," said Sailors' attorney Michael Puglise.

A Vietnam veteran, Sailors had lived in his Hillcrest Road home for 33 years watching crime escalate in the neighborhood.

At one time, Lilburn "was a nice, quiet suburb town; crime wasn't really a big issue," Puglise said Tuesday evening. However, he added, there has been increased gang violence, drug activity, home invasions, and other crimes.

"That's why it's important, it's imperative that we look at this case as what Mr. Sailors would have perceived," Puglise said.

As a cut-through street from U.S. Highway 29 and Indian Trail Road, Hillcrest Road has become a conduit for "undesirable activities," the attorney said.

Additionally, two to three weeks before the shooting, Puglise said that the neighboring house belonging to the Sailors family was burglarized. There's also gang graffiti on a nearby wall, the attorney said.

"I'm not implying that the four individuals that were in the car were up to no good, but Mr. Sailors doesn't know anything about a GPS leading them there or anything like that."

And, on the evening of Jan. 26, Sailors was sitting at his home with his elderly wife when "he hears a ruckus outside that is out of the ordinary."

"He opens the door, sees one individual run, and then he sees a second run," Puglise said. "He immediately tells his wife to call 911.

"He retrieves his gun thinking that he and his wife are going to be victims of a home invasion or an assault, and he goes out with his pistol, fires a round mainly to scare them off."

Puglise said the first shooting occurred near the home, where the suspect was standing, and where the victim's vehicle initially was parked. At that time, the car accelerates toward Sailors, he added,

Sailors thought he was about to be run over, and that's when the fatal shot was fired, Puglise said. The car continues on, and the final resting place of the Diaz's vehicle was at the end of the driveway, the attorney said.

When police arrived, the car was pointed east. That would be away from the home. The Lilburn Police Department report does not indicate how exactly the vehicle came to rest, only that it did.

David E. Diaz Valencia, the victim's brother, said that Diaz was accelerating out of the driveway when he was shot. Additionally, he had rolled down the window to apologize, the brother said.

"The Sailors family is totally grief struck," Puglise said. "Their hearts go out to the deceased's family."

Police are continuing their investigation. In the meantime, Sailors' attorney says this:

"There's a lot of stuff that people are floating around: Facts that just aren't facts. And, these are all things that we have to be patient don't rush to judgment and wait to get."

See also:

francisco jimenez February 04, 2013 at 03:10 AM
dise que solo se estaba defendiendo!... Dios mio! que ignorancia y racismo.. mato a un joven por equivocarse de direccion, y su unico argumento es que se estaba defendiendo.. lo peor de todo es que dise ser un ejemplo para la humanidad y un exelente cristiano!... este es el pais mas Racista del mundo y siguen enpenandose en mantener el lugar...... que verguensa!... un dia el Verdadero Dios lo abra de jusgar con justisia.. EL VERDADERO DIOS!... no su falso dios el que predica matar por racismo y su doctrina nazy!...
francisco jimenez February 04, 2013 at 03:26 AM
la verdad eres un pende?jo!.... crees que eres muy hombre con una pistola! pero te aseguro que de hombre a hombre a mano limpia no haces nada!...
David Womack February 04, 2013 at 12:18 PM
@francisco- You read the statement in English, why reply in Spanish? Jerk...
Joseph B February 09, 2013 at 01:09 PM
YOU ARE DEAD WRONG Richard. Most states including Georgia, do NOT allow the use of deadly force if someone 'feels' threatened. GENERALLY, you may use JUST ENOUGH force to repel an attack, or JUST ENOUGH force to protect your property. Georgia law, like most other states, DOES allow one to use deadly force for self-defense if one is threatened by deadly force (or grievous bodily harm, or forcible commission of a felony). HOWEVER, you first have a duty to retreat IF possible. Now, this duty to retreat is where the 'castle doctrine' law comes into play. If you are INSIDE your property AND you are threatened with deadly force, grievous bodily harm, forcible commission of a felony, or if the perp FORCIBLY breaks into your home, you no longer have a duty to retreat and can immediately use deadly force for self defense. It is a tragedy that people with superficial and uneducated ideas about law and legal principles believe the castle doctrine means you may use deadly force if you only 'feel threatened' anywhere on your property. So please I beg anyone with a firearm to realize 1. you must be presented with deadly force (or forcible felony, etc.) and 2. you have a duty to retreat IF POSSIBLE *UNLESS* you are IN your property (if castle doctrine state) OTHERWISE IT IS MURDER/MANSLAUGHTER!!! THERE MAY BE OTHER LEGAL ISSUES TO CONSIDER Source: Hundreds of hours of self-defense and defensive firearms courses and seminars.
Joseph B February 09, 2013 at 03:18 PM
I want to emphasize also that my statement is a generalization erring on the safe side of state laws that vary quite drastically from states like District of Columbia where there is no specific castle doctrine or stand your ground laws to Texas where a man slew a burglar he saw fleeing from his neighbor's house and the homicide was ruled justifiable. States like Georgia and Pennsylvania are in the middle where there is no specific duty to retreat from anywhere you have a legal right to be when attacked with deadly force. Remember though, that if you had a way out that was safe and still killed someone, not only does it weaken the self-defense argument, but there may be civil liabilities also. In addition, situations where defending another person can be similarly complex; such as if you defend someone who has no legal right to be somewhere, or is committing some other crime like drug possession that may not be apparent, but is then discovered by police. Trespassing is the most often part not understood. You can never justify homicide for trespassing anywhere in the US, there must be at least felony property crime in play in states like Texas; but most states require immediate danger to life or some other violent crime such as rape, etc. One final note, read and consult MULTIPLE sources. DO NOT take the opinions of any police or peace officers, they are specifically prohibited from providing legal advice. And please, please, PLEASE don't take your drinking buddy Bubba's word.

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