Thursday, August 7, 2008

California: First suspect, then victim: shooting said self-defense

Pomona, California

From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune of July 30, 2008
First suspect, then victim: shooting said self-defense

In a span of two days, Brett Nichols went from being accused of attempted murder to becoming the victim in the same incident.

The 48-year-old Phillips Ranch resident was arrested Monday morning on suspicion of attempted murder. Police said he had shot a man and dumped the body in the hills near his home.

But Nichols was released from jail Wednesday afternoon after police determined he was acting in self-defense when he shot David Rotela, a 22-year-old Rosemead resident who survived the ordeal, authorities said.

"It was a dumb move for me to do that, to dump his body, but I didn't know what to do," said Nichols outside his Edgebrook Drive home.

Sgt. Robert Baker said "The (Los Angeles County district attorney) declined to prosecute for that incident."

"Nichols is no longer a suspect," Baker said.

According to Nichols, the shooting evolved from a home invasion robbery about 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Five people live in the house owned by Nichols, who said he was waiting for his girlfriend to come home when he heard a commotion in a bedroom.

He armed himself with a gun, "just in case something got out of hand," and went to find the source of the noise, Nichols said.

Nichols said he discovered a man holding a shotgun and wearing a ski mask who ordered him and three other residents to lie under a mattress.

Rotela and a second man took cell phones, cameras and car keys from the residents, authorities said.

As the men left the room, Nichols followed them. When Rotela got to the front door, he swung around and pointed his shotgun at Nichols.

Nichols fired at Rotela who then fell back onto the front walkway while the second man escaped with the stolen goods, authorities said.

Nichols, with a felony drug conviction from the 1990s and no license for the gun, said, "I thought, `A felon with a gun, this isn't good."'

He said he took Rotela and drove him to the hills adjacent to his home and left him there.

"He was paralyzed - he knew it. He said he didn't want to live like that, so I took him out and laid him under the stars like he wanted," Nichols said.

Afterward, Nichols said, he went to 7-Eleven to get a drink and cleaned his truck and the walkway of his house. He also cut out the blood stains from the carpet, leaving square holes, he said.

Police came to the house six hours later to talk to Nichols about a report of shots fired, and he led them to Rotela, who was still alive. Rotela was flown to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He was listed in critical condition.

Baker said the the investigation is still ongoing, but Rotela could face charges.

Nichols said he had never had contact with Rotela before and did not intend to shoot him.

"I was protecting my home," he said. "If he hadn't turned on me, I probably wouldn't have shot him."


No matter how unusual the circumstances may seem, the Civilian Gun Defense Blog operates based on police and government decisions. In this case, the police determined the actions to be in self-defense. This standard works both ways - a shooting may seem justified, but if a person is charged, the incident is disqualified from being used on the site.

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