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Report: Shooting Suspect Believed Someone Was Trying to Enter Home

Phillip Sailors, of Lilburn, is currently being held without bond in the shooting death of 22-year-old Duluth man.

Credit: Joy L. Woodson, Lilburn-Mountain Park Patch editor
Credit: Joy L. Woodson, Lilburn-Mountain Park Patch editor
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published January 30, 2013)

Update: Jan 30, 5:50 a.m.: Attorney: Increased Crime Made Client Wary

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Lilburn police detectives continue to investigate a Saturday shooting on Hillcrest Road that resulted in the city's first homicide since 2005.

In the incident, 22-year-old Rodrigo Diaz, of Duluth, was shot in the driveway of 537 Hillcrest Road in Lilburn. Diaz was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries. 

He had been shot in the left side of his head with a .22-caliber revolver, according to police. He was pronounced dead at 6:10 a.m. on Jan. 27, while in the intensive care unit.

Homeowner Phillip Sailors, 69, was then arrested Sunday and charged in Diaz's death. He reportedly believed that someone was trying to enter his home unannounced.

According to a report released to Patch Tuesday, Diaz was driving with three friends when he arrived to Sailors' home on Saturday evening.

According to the victim's brother, David E. Diaz Valencia, the friends were trying to find the home of a friend of Diaz's girlfriend when they pulled into the wrong driveway by mistake.

In the police report, the friends said they were planning to go skating later that night.

'Trouble Unknown'

Earlier in the evening, about 8 p.m., the girlfriend's father said he spoke with his daughter, who stated that she was on her way home. He did not know that the friends were headed out elsewhere, according to the report.

After friends pulled into Sailors' driveway, police were dispatched to the scene for "trouble unknown" just after 10 p.m.

While en route, a complainant told emergency dispatchers that a car was in her yard, that people were shouting, and that two gunshots were heard.

Another witness told police that a male subject was overheard yelling "why was someone trying to get inside their house."

According to Valencia, the GPS directed the friends to the wrong house. And, then Sailors started shooting; as Diaz accelerated out of the driveway, he was shot in the head, Valencia said.

"My brother had rolled down the window to apologize,” Valencia said, or the bullet might not have done so much damage.

When police arrived, they observed a woman screaming next to the stopped red Mitsubishi 3000GT, pointed east and driven by Diaz, at the end of the home's driveway.

The driver was slumped over in the driver's seat, with blood covering his face. His breathing was labored, and he was unresponsive.

A female witness, who was later identified as the victim's girlfriend, was "screaming frantically (that) her boyfriend had been shot." Two other friends were standing behind the vehicle.

Sailors then "made a spontaneous utterance that he shot the driver," the police report states.

Diaz's Family Life

According to Valencia, Diaz was one of four brothers and two sisters. Most are living in the Duluth or metro Atlanta area.

He lived with his father, Rodrigo Abad Diaz Diaz; stepmother, Blanca P. Villegas Torres; brother David and younger sister in a home on Pittard Road in Duluth.

The family is originally from Colombia. The father has lived in Duluth for 10 years. Several other family members came to Duluth about seven years ago.

Diaz was studying auto mechanics at Gwinnett Tech, after changing majors from computer programming, according to his brother.

Valencia, whom Patch spoke to Tuesday, said funeral arrangements have not been made yet.

Lilburn Police Chief Bruce Hedley said the incident "was an unfortunate and tragic event" for all involved. 

Snellville attorney Mike Puglise, who is representing Sailors, could not be reached for comment.

The last time a person was killed in the city of Lilburn was in 2005 on Inland Way. In that case, a Eunice Castillo, 38, chased down and shot her boyfriend, 43-year-old Keith Newell Boyd. She then turned the gun on herself in apparent murder-suicide.

Patch will follow up on this story as more information becomes available.

--- Duluth Patch Editor Faye Edmundson contributed to this article.

See also:

UPDATE: Lilburn Man Arrested, Charged with Murder

David Womack January 31, 2013 at 11:22 AM
A world in which people are judged on the color of their skin because of a racial chip on your shoulder. It's far more likely that after 69 year Mr. Sailors has made a mistake, over reacted and now will owe a debt to society and a family. Then your point of him being a "racist grumpy cold blooded old man" and your right, God will be the final judge. Let’s seek truth and justice, not hearsay and vengeance.
the truth January 31, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Why must everyone rush to judgment? There are more facts to this story. You are the same type people who used to form a lynch mob and grab the first "guilty looking person and get your justice"
Joseph B February 09, 2013 at 11:49 AM
I think an obscenity might be appropriate if you pull into someone's driveway and then they run out to your car and fire a gun into the air just because you are there.
Joseph B February 09, 2013 at 01:08 PM
I am posting this comment again because it is so often misunderstood AND results in tragedy. 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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