Thursday, July 24, 2008

California: DA declines charges in fatal Marine shooting

Barstow, California

From the Desert Dispatch of July 22, 2008
DA declines charges in fatal Marine shooting

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office elected not to file charges against Issa Wajeel, 50, the Barstow man who was arrested Friday on suspicion of murder in connection with the shooting death of a Camp Pendleton Marine.

Michael Fermin, supervising deputy district attorney at the Barstow courthouse, said he received the Barstow Police Department report in the case late in the day on Monday. After reviewing the file with Gary Roth, chief deputy district attorney for the Desert-Mountain region of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, they came to the conclusion Tuesday afternoon that Wajeel acted in self-defense when he shot 20-year-old Michael Firkins, Fermin said.

He would not comment on the evidence that led them to that conclusion.

Police found Firkins with a gunshot wound to the head in a truck parked in front of Wajeel’s house on July 3. He died in the hospital on July 6, and Wajeel was arrested Friday on suspicion of murder. Wajeel, who was in his yard with a gun when police arrived, told investigators that he had confronted a man who may have been trying to break into his house.

Wajeel, a retired Army sergeant first class, worked as a contractor at Fort Irwin and taught administration of justice classes part time at Barstow Community College.

Fermin said the fact that Wajeel was a respected figure in the community did not play into his decision not to file charges.

“We base it on the facts of the law, the facts of what happened and the law that applies in that situation,” he said. “... Sometimes that decision-making process may not be a popular one, but it’s one we believe to be right under the eye of the law and the facts that are available.”

The investigation is still open, and the District Attorney’s Office could elect to file charges in the future if new evidence surfaces, he said.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, West Valley Detention Center still listed Wajeel as an inmate.

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