LAREDO, Texas — A Texas jury acquitted a man accused of killing a boy who broke into his home looking for a snack — a case that sparked outrage in this border city, where many thought the man should not have even been charged.
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, who was 13 when he and three friends broke into Gonzalez’s trailer to rummage for snacks and soda one night 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 they (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 own 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. ‘‘This case has huge implications across the board. We always, always believed in Mr. Gonzalez’s right to defend his life and his property.’’
Alaniz is running uncontested for Webb County district attorney in November.
However, 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, said in Saturday’s editions of the Laredo Morning Times that she was disappointed with the verdict.
‘‘The state fought the case the way it should have,’’ she said. ‘‘There was a sufficient amount of evidence, and 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. 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 say.
The boys say 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., now 16, testified that Gonzalez ordered them at gunpoint to take Anguiano’s body outside.
Gonzalez said he thought Anguiano was lunging at him when he fired the shotgun.
Many people in Laredo — a town just across the Rio Grande from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where drug violence runs rampant — defended Gonzalez’s actions. In online responses to articles published by the Morning Times, comments included statements such as ‘‘The kid got what he deserved’’ and calls to ‘‘stop the unfair prosecution.’’