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Originally published Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Texas man acquitted in teen intruder's death

A Texas jury acquitted a man accused of killing a teenager who broke into his home looking for a snack, a case that sparked outrage in LaredA Texas jury acquitted a man accused of killing a teenager who broke into his home looking for a snack, a case that sparked outrage in Laredo, where many thought the man should not have been charged at all.

The Associated Press

LAREDO, Texas — A Texas jury acquitted a man accused of killing a teenager who broke into his home looking for a snack, a case that sparked outrage in Laredo, where many thought the man should not have been charged at all.

It took the jury of eight men and four women three hours Friday to find Jose Luis Gonzalez, 63, not guilty of murdering Francisco Anguiano, 13, who along with three friends broke into Gonzalez's trailer to rummage for snacks and soda in July 2007.

"I thank God and my attorney, the jury and the judge," Gonzalez said in Spanish after the verdict. "It was a case where it was my life or theirs, and it's a very good thing that [the jurors] decided in my favor."

Gonzalez said he was sorry for Anguiano's death, but "it was a situation in which I feared for my life."

Texas law allows homeowners to use deadly force to protect themselves and their property. In June, a grand jury in Houston cleared a homeowner who shot and killed two burglars outside his neighbor's house despite the dispatcher's repeated request that he stay inside his home.

"I feel vindicated for Mr. Gonzalez and his family and for all of the homeowners and all of the seniors in Laredo," said Isidro "Chilo" Alaniz, Gonzalez's attorney. Alaniz is running uncontested for Webb County district attorney in November.

Assistant District Attorney Uriel Druker maintained during his closing arguments that the case was not about homeowners' right to protect their property, but about when a person is justified in using deadly force to do so.

"What really took place here was a case of vigilantism," he said after the verdict. "A 13-year-old boy was killed because a man was enraged."

Anguiano's aunt, who asked not to be named, told the Laredo Morning Times that she was disappointed with the verdict.

" I thought that some of the jurors would be a father or a mother, and perhaps they would think about this happening to them."

Gonzalez had endured several break-ins at his trailer when the four boys, ranging in age from 11 to 15, broke in at night. Gonzalez, who was in a nearby building at the time, went into the trailer and confronted the boys with a 16-gauge shotgun. Then he forced the boys, who were unarmed, to their knees, attorneys on both sides said.

The survivors said they were begging for forgiveness when Gonzalez hit them with the barrel of the shotgun and kicked them repeatedly. Then, the medical examiner testified, Anguiano was shot in the back at close range. Two mashed Twinkies and some cookies were stuffed in the pockets of his shorts.

Another boy, Jesus Soto Jr., 16, testified that Gonzalez ordered them at gunpoint to take Anguiano's body outside.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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