Store owner who shot a shoplifter faces prison time

The DA's office sends message that the act wasn't self defense

BAKERSFIELD, CALIF - Elias Aguilar had been robbed twice at gunpoint, and he knew two other clerks had been murdered in another store robbery in Lamont a few weeks earlier. So, he told us, he was worried when a jumpy stranger entered his Lamont convenience store. 

Now, a month later, that thief is facing a long recovery and Aguilar is facing an even longer prison term. 

Last month, before his arrest, Elias Aguilar said the man he shot came into market, and Aguilar felt  he was acting odd. When the man fled with a bag of food, Aguilar opened fire, seriously wounding the thief. 

A month later, Aguilar was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. 

"You can only use lethal force when you're presented with imminent lethal force to yourself or someone else", says local defense attorney, Mark Raimondo. 

Raimondo says every case is different, but typically, he says, "self defense is defined as reasonable force being used against reasonable force used against you."

Aguilar says he was fearful when he shot the man, because he'd been robbed at gunpoint twice, and because of a double homicide at another Lamont market months before. 

"The way he was acting, I was worried about it", Aguilar said last month. 

Raimondo says many cases like this, aren't so black and white. "Just because it's not self defense, doesn't mean it's automatically murder. There's lots of things in between that the law takes into account. There's what's called imperfect self defense, where maybe you thought you were acting in self defense, but the law- or any reasonable person hearing the case would say they went a little bit too far."

He says imperfect self defense would lead to a lesser charge, but you'd still be prosecuted. He says that wouldn't't be the case in other scenarios. 

"If it's the middle of the night, someone is breaking in, the law specifically says that you can presume that they want to do evil to you. Now in your business in the middle of the day, if somebody starts stealing some crackerjacks, the line is a lot tighter for what kind of force you can use", says Raimondo. 

This past week, a doctor shot and killed a first time patient inside his office. The incident wasn't captured on camera, but Dr. Zong told us the man assaulted him during an attempted robbery. Bakersfield Police say he's not facing any charges. 

Raimondo says if you're a business owner and you witness someone commit a crime, you have the right to apprehend them until police arrive, but don't shoot. "If you're at Sears and you have undercover shoplifters or something, they can definitely apprehend you, but it would be too much if they started to shoot you if you stole some lingerie from aisle five."

Aguilar bailed out of jail this morning. We went to his market to speak with him, but he wasn't there. He's scheduled to be arraigned next month. 



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