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Civil suit filed on behalf of man killed in Lilburn driveway shooting

Phillip Sailors

Phillip Sailors

LAWRENCEVILLE — The family of Rodrigo Abad Diaz Ortiz — the 22-year-old shot and killed while turning around in a Lilburn driveway last January — has filed a civil suit against his alleged assailant.

Ortiz, previously identified only by his first three names, was behind the wheel of his Mitsibushi 3000GT on the night of Jan. 26, 2013, when his GPS mistakenly took him into a driveway on Hillcrest Road. The home’s owner, 69-year-old Phillip Sailors, told police he believed that he was in danger when he walked outside and fired a gun at the car.

Three passengers were unharmed, but Ortiz was shot in the head and later died. Sailors was arrested and charged with murder.

With the criminal case yet to be resolved, attorneys representing Ortiz’s family have now filed a civil complaint. The document filed last week asks for monetary damages to cover his final medical and funeral expenses and address his “mental and physical pain and suffering.”

It also asks for “other and further relief as the Court shall deem just and appropriate.”

“Our initial investigation in this case leads us to believe that Mr. Sailors was negligent in believing that he was about to be the victim of a crime,” attorney Christine A. Koehler said. “Furthermore, he was negligent in the handling of the firearm that he possessed.”

According to the filing, which requests a jury trial, Ortiz’s medical and funeral bills totalled nearly $140,000.

Michael Puglise represents Sailors in both the criminal and civil proceedings. While he’s certainly not conceding on the latter, the attorney said he did agree with the basis of the suit’s allegations — alleged negligence rather than criminal wrongdoing.

“If anything this (incident) should be looked at purely as a civil case,” Puglise said.

Sailors, who was reportedly fearful because his mother-in-law’s house had been robbed shortly before the shooting, has yet to be indicted on the criminal charges. Puglise said his client’s family has kept that of Ortiz in its prayers.

“He’s an elderly man and he’s dealing with it the best he can,” Puglise said. “His concerns aren’t about his own well-being.”