In August 2010, four armed robbers entered Arturo Rios’s jewelry store and pawn shop in the Southern California working-class city of Wilmington. Mr. Rios was in the back of the store when the four hooded and armed robbers with street gang affiliations broke in, pulled hammers and clubs, and rushed Mr. Rios and his assistant.
Mr. Rios, fearing for his and his assistant’s life, drew a pistol and fired at the robbers. Several of the assailants were shot, and they all ran out of the store. One of the robbers collapsed and died in the street in front of the store.
The deceased robber was identified as Brandon Lincoln. Two of Mr. Lincoln’s accomplices – Jeremiah Baskin and Traveon Hill – were caught and subsequently convicted of attempted second degree robbery and second degree commercial burglary. One was sentenced to 30-years-to-life-in-prison, the other to 16-years-to-life. The fourth robber was never identified, and still remains at large.
The police found that Mr. Rios’ actions and use of force in defending himself and his assistant were legally justified. But despite the convictions and prison sentences, Mr. Rios was hit with a frivolous wrongful death lawsuit brought by a lawyer on behalf of the deceased Mr. Lincoln’s estate. The lawsuit sought money for the robber getting killed while he committed the robbery!
California law permits citizens to defend themselves with deadly force from potentially lethal attacks. A firearm can be used when that citizen reasonably fears that they are about to suffer imminent great bodily injury or death. But California also allows anyone to file a lawsuit at any time and for almost any reason. So Mr. Rios was faced with the long and expensive prospect of defending himself against this nuisance lawsuit.
Lawyers at Michel & Associates, P.C., who work with the NRA & CRPA Legal Action Project stepped in to offer some help to Mr. Rios. They were able to drive the estate’s attorney off the case, and then obtained a full dismissal of case against Mr. Rios. But it took several years to work the case through the court system.
To contribute and help people like Mr. Rios, click here for the Legal Action Project.
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