Attorney: Increased Crime Made Client Wary

The attorney for Phillip Sailors, of Lilburn, said his client thought he was about to be run over when he fired the fatal shot.

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published January 31, 2013.)

Update: Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.: Slaying Suspect Granted Bond, Released


The attorney of a man charged with murder in Lilburn says his client feared for his life when he fired the fatal shot that killed a 22-year-old Duluth man.

Phillip Sailors, 69, later was arrested and charged with murder. Rodrigo Diaz, 22, the victim, died from his injuries at Gwinnett Medical Center.

Diaz's family has said that a GPS took them to Sailors' driveway by mistake and that he was shot as he pulled away from the home.

As a man who has done Christian missionary work, Sailors is "just not the type of individual that's going around looking to shoot at people without just reason," said Sailors' attorney Michael Puglise.

A Vietnam veteran, Sailors had lived in his Hillcrest Road home for 33 years watching crime escalate in the neighborhood.

At one time, Lilburn "was a nice, quiet suburb town; crime wasn't really a big issue," Puglise said Tuesday evening. However, he added, there has been increased gang violence, drug activity, home invasions, and other crimes.

"That's why it's important, it's imperative that we look at this case as what Mr. Sailors would have perceived," Puglise said.

As a cut-through street from U.S. Highway 29 and Indian Trail Road, Hillcrest Road has become a conduit for "undesirable activities," the attorney said.

Additionally, two to three weeks before the shooting, Puglise said that the neighboring house belonging to the Sailors family was burglarized. There's also gang graffiti on a nearby wall, the attorney said.

"I'm not implying that the four individuals that were in the car were up to no good, but Mr. Sailors doesn't know anything about a GPS leading them there or anything like that."

And, on the evening of Jan. 26, Sailors was sitting at his home with his elderly wife when "he hears a ruckus outside that is out of the ordinary."

"He opens the door, sees one individual run, and then he sees a second run," Puglise said. "He immediately tells his wife to call 911.

"He retrieves his gun thinking that he and his wife are going to be victims of a home invasion or an assault, and he goes out with his pistol, fires a round mainly to scare them off."

Puglise said the first shooting occurred near the home, where the suspect was standing, and where the victim's vehicle initially was parked. At that time, the car accelerates toward Sailors, he added,

Sailors thought he was about to be run over, and that's when the fatal shot was fired, Puglise said. The car continues on, and the final resting place of the Diaz's vehicle was at the end of the driveway, the attorney said.

When police arrived, the car was pointed east. That would be away from the home. The Lilburn Police Department report does not indicate how exactly the vehicle came to rest, only that it did.

David E. Diaz Valencia, the victim's brother, said that Diaz was accelerating out of the driveway when he was shot. Additionally, he had rolled down the window to apologize, the brother said.

"The Sailors family is totally grief struck," Puglise said. "Their hearts go out to the deceased's family."

Police are continuing their investigation. In the meantime, Sailors' attorney says this:

"There's a lot of stuff that people are floating around: Facts that just aren't facts. And, these are all things that we have to be patient don't rush to judgment and wait to get."

See also:

Danzo January 30, 2013 at 04:34 PM
I have tried to be open and honest. Seems like the owners of this site dont want to hear the truth about their own neighborhoods. Sorry to have even tried to inform residents of the facts. You are rejecting this message as well.
John Henderson January 30, 2013 at 04:47 PM
The lawyers statement is Excellent "lawyer speak." We pretty much have his opening statement to the judge. Hopefully Lilburn officials do an actual investigation of the facts! The number one fact is NO 911 call was made by the wife? If there is an increase of crime in this neighborhood what is Lilburn doing to combat it? Instead monitoring and trying to run the muslims and creamatories out of town and doing license check on quite main street(you wouldnt want any undesirables visiting downtown Lilburn) the residents need to be asking why the mayor and Police Chief do not have their officers out partoling this neighborhood?
John Henderson January 30, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Read the police report sir! Not the comments in the Lilburn Patch and statements from the lawyer. "Truth be known they were probably going to purchase drugs and went to the wrong house" what kind of statement is that? since you are hiding behind a fake name" truth be known .....
Gill Daniels January 30, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Bluedobee: We do have a neighborhood watch in the Area of Sailors residence. Lilburn is rated a "extreme crime area" by more than one watchdog type agency. You i am sorry to say are uninformed. Might i suggest u go visit your local pd and get involved with perhaps even our watch group. Its very sad that a young person did loose their life. Do YOU have all the facts? I think not. Take the time to visit some of these free gov sites that will keep u duly informed. I cant help but agree with danzo regarding just more fodder for 2nd admendment restrictions. Please get involved. Thanks in advance
Joy L. Woodson January 30, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Mr. Henderson, there was, in fact, a call made by a female witness who told dispatchers that someone was in her yard, that there were people yelling, and then she heard gun shots. We can't be certain, until the facts are revealed, when exactly the call was made. But, the report indicates that officers were already on the way when they learned from the female caller that two shots were fired.
Bluedobee January 30, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Well sir, show me the sources, why should I contact the Lilburn PD when apparently you have them at your fingertips? And don't be childish by resorting to personal attacks, when you feel challenged.
Bluedobee January 30, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Again, tell me the agencies and I'll take the time to look. And you do have a neighborhood watch....tell me, are you involved with it? Or are you one of the many people who just sit back and expect everyone else to do the work?
1Freedom January 30, 2013 at 06:06 PM
Like I said before, Despicable approach of a Vietnam Army Veteran using his well known Gun Safety & Combat Training...at a mistake of address by a young man....What a Shame! 2 lives are lost in this, A young man with years ahead of him to a Coward old man, this challenges my rights to bear arms and protect my home and property....Thank You Mr. Sailors for your Service to our Country but I despise you for the conundrum you place to the responsible Gun Owners in America and add an example to Anti-Gun Rights Advocates!!! To all the Residents in the city of Lilburn, place into consideration your safety and these talks about Crime Rates and the such....When Mr.Sailors shot the so-called " Warning Shot " into the air...What would happen if that stray bullet ended in your Home or into a vehicle driving on busy Indian Trail Rd., which then killed the driver instantly, the vehicle still running rolling it into a Apartment building, and causing a huge explosion which caused dozens of lives. All this speculation is baseless...We have 3 witnesses at the scene of the Murder...why are we so imposed to defend a unstable 69 year-old man?
jby January 30, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Spare me. He is a murderer and will be convicted. You simply can't walk out of your house and "perceive" something (home invasion, car accelerating towards you, etc.) and then KILL someone. Stop trying to be a hero, lone rangers. You can caress your firearms in private all night long, but leave the shooting to the professionals. Otherwise you will simply be as pathetic as this man. The idea of being the "good guy with a gun" is overstated and wishful thinking.
Gill Daniels January 30, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Number of informational sights out there. Scan Gwinnett is one one of oldest that come to mind. You can configure this site to get bookings, sex crimes, etc. Also a good one which offers a phone app is hoodwatch.com. They rate lilburn poorly. They have all the stats for those who look for that. I am involved in my neighborhood watch and not one to sit on sidelines. Shooting is a tradgedy but lets not rush to hang this elderly vet out to dry. The drug bust was within a few hundred feet of the shooters residence. High traffic neighborhood. Please get involved with your neighborhood watch. If you dont have one i am sure the chief or mayor can help u get started
Donna January 30, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Yes I will stand and defend this old man....Have you served? Have you fought? for these rights you are claiming as your own...you thank him but despise him...the fact is...Listen up You and many like yourself will try and use it to support your view on gun control.....that is becasue you are ignorat and uninformed.....There are circumstances and information yet to come out in this case...are you aware of any of these facts? are you aware of any facts? you despise him for interferring with one of your rights....what have you done to deserve your right? be born? have you serverd, worked, fought, prayed? or do you sit behind your keyboard and pass judgement....he foujght for the rights you are whining about...Grow up...do your homework...this is a tragedy for everyone involved...a young man's life was cut short and a wonderful man's life is forever changed..two families have been destroyed by this tragedy...and it is a tragedy for all involved....you sir do not have a dog in this fight...unless you are t he dog...which I suspect could possibly be the case
Donna January 30, 2013 at 10:29 PM
Not good guy with a gun....just a good guy.....and this is a tragedy that has forever changed two families....just a little respect for both families as they struggle with their pain and grief
Richard Waterworth January 30, 2013 at 11:46 PM
This is simply a case where a man concerned about his family's safety in his known drug invested neighborhood took defensive action to ward off intruders on his own property at night when he felt threatened. Why are these people not leaving when Mr. Sailors confronts them? Florida law allows a person to use a firearm if that person feels threatened. Feeling threatened, many of us could easily have done the same, having no intention of killing anyone, just protecting our family. Mr. Sailors is squeaky clean, including regular church attendance and Christian missionary work out of the country. He had no intention of killing anyone, only to protect his family standing on his own property. Murder never entered his mind.
jby January 31, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Why are people not leaving when he confronts them??? Because the guy was dead maybe?? The car was going backwards as in trying to leave...no longer possible when you have been shot in the head. Defensive action would have been someone on his doorstep at his door...these people were either getting in or in a car...Mr. Sailors was on offense. You can be squeaky clean, church going missionary, but you still can't just SHOOT PEOPLE because you watch too much Fox news and are paranoid. When did protection equal murder?
David Womack January 31, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Leave it to the professionals!? All the professionals do is clean up the mess and try to get justice for the victim. If the victim was your son don't you wish he had a gun and could have fought back against this lone ranger?
David Womack January 31, 2013 at 12:36 AM
As long as we prejudging people, when is the last time you had a problem with an 86 year man vs the last time you had trouble with a group of teens/young-ins?
David Womack January 31, 2013 at 12:38 AM
More prejudging, let's guess what age group commits the majority of violent crime?
jby January 31, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Since we have moved on to profiling I guess that explains it. I feel sorry for the man and the fact that life as he knew it is over. I feel worse for the family of the young man fatally shot for simply making a wrong turn. Our culture is festering an ugly side that allows justification for people feeling the need to shoot first damn the consequences. A life has been lost, the potential this young man had has evaporated.
Phil McGroin January 31, 2013 at 04:07 AM
Oh this is an awesome conversation you have here. Sounds like Danzo is disappointed someone didn’t pull into his driveway so he coulda killed the kid first. Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius, don’t ya know. And Donna pulls out the old “if you served you have the right to gun down people in your driveway” rule. Oh and graciously provides the subheading, which includes, “if you didn't serve, you just have to live with the fact that old veterans have a right to kill whoever they want”. Sorry, that's the rule... Of course she then throws a backhanded, gratuitous nod to the family of some kid who had the unmitigated gall to pull into the driveway. That is Algonquinian conversation right there people. Simply spectacular… I mean, didn't I read somewhere that Jesus said "Whosever crosseth thy lawn, betwixt thy sidewalk and thine own door, henceforth shalt thou approacheth thy children armed and giving forth a mighty cry. An shouldst thou be of past soldierly comportment or shouldst thou partakest of Fox News, then shalt thou shoot the children in the head before they can get away." *sigh* Thankfully they hadn't passed the "It's ok to kill the children if they're on your lawn" law when I was growing up. I guess fetching a ball over the neighbor's fence is good for a beheading. Yeah, then you guys can put the heads on fence posts as a warning to others... It all makes perfect sense now...
James Mc Daniel January 31, 2013 at 03:44 PM
I have been knowing Phil Sailors for over 30 years. As a matter of fact he used to be my supervisor at the company I retired from. I could not have asked for a better person to work for & be around. Both sides need to calm down & wait for the facts to come out. JM
1Freedom January 31, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Considering the fact that Mr.Sailors residence was on an extravagant Property surrounded by HighTech Surveillance Equipment and a 10 ft Fence with barbed wire, and is also a gated entry through a call box....He had all the right to practice a Justifiable murder because these Minority adolescents broke into his property...And Mr.Sailors having served in Vietnam makes him a 1st Class American to these Non-American Communism derived young adults...Oh and rest assured there is no Evil in Mr. Sailors, he is a God-Fearing, Jesus Loving Man, he did Christian Missionary Work overseas...that wipes him clean of such slander and he knew automatically if Mr. Diaz and his fellow friends came to do the Devil's work.....SARCASM....That makes me tired.... "Delivery Drivers...Mormons...Girl Scouts...Boy Scouts...ETC...Beware.... don't step foot on my Property or you will be shot..."
NVicens January 31, 2013 at 06:32 PM
This is insane. Rodrigo Diaz was NOT a drug addict or bad kid. I knew him personally, had the opportunity to teach him in high school and it is a shame that this man killed him for no reason. Rodrigo did not have a weapon, and was leaving the scene when Sailors decided to shot him.
cris February 02, 2013 at 01:44 AM
stupid and xenophobic your argument. Go kill yourself.
David Womack February 02, 2013 at 02:04 AM
@nvic- reading goes a lot faster when you don't sweat the comprehension, huh?
David Womack February 02, 2013 at 02:06 AM
@cris- big words from someone that missed the point of 1freedom's comment.
francisco jimenez February 04, 2013 at 03:10 AM
dise que solo se estaba defendiendo!... Dios mio! que ignorancia y racismo.. mato a un joven por equivocarse de direccion, y su unico argumento es que se estaba defendiendo.. lo peor de todo es que dise ser un ejemplo para la humanidad y un exelente cristiano!... este es el pais mas Racista del mundo y siguen enpenandose en mantener el lugar...... que verguensa!... un dia el Verdadero Dios lo abra de jusgar con justisia.. EL VERDADERO DIOS!... no su falso dios el que predica matar por racismo y su doctrina nazy!...
francisco jimenez February 04, 2013 at 03:26 AM
la verdad eres un pende?jo!.... crees que eres muy hombre con una pistola! pero te aseguro que de hombre a hombre a mano limpia no haces nada!...
David Womack February 04, 2013 at 12:18 PM
@francisco- You read the statement in English, why reply in Spanish? Jerk...
Joseph B February 09, 2013 at 01:09 PM
YOU ARE DEAD WRONG Richard. Most states including Georgia, do NOT allow the use of deadly force if someone 'feels' threatened. GENERALLY, you may use JUST ENOUGH force to repel an attack, or JUST ENOUGH force to protect your property. Georgia law, like most other states, DOES allow one to use deadly force for self-defense if one is threatened by deadly force (or grievous bodily harm, or forcible commission of a felony). HOWEVER, you first have a duty to retreat IF possible. Now, this duty to retreat is where the 'castle doctrine' law comes into play. If you are INSIDE your property AND you are threatened with deadly force, grievous bodily harm, forcible commission of a felony, or if the perp FORCIBLY breaks into your home, you no longer have a duty to retreat and can immediately use deadly force for self defense. It is a tragedy that people with superficial and uneducated ideas about law and legal principles believe the castle doctrine means you may use deadly force if you only 'feel threatened' anywhere on your property. So please I beg anyone with a firearm to realize 1. you must be presented with deadly force (or forcible felony, etc.) and 2. you have a duty to retreat IF POSSIBLE *UNLESS* you are IN your property (if castle doctrine state) OTHERWISE IT IS MURDER/MANSLAUGHTER!!! THERE MAY BE OTHER LEGAL ISSUES TO CONSIDER Source: Hundreds of hours of self-defense and defensive firearms courses and seminars.
Joseph B February 09, 2013 at 03:18 PM
I want to emphasize also that my statement is a generalization erring on the safe side of state laws that vary quite drastically from states like District of Columbia where there is no specific castle doctrine or stand your ground laws to Texas where a man slew a burglar he saw fleeing from his neighbor's house and the homicide was ruled justifiable. States like Georgia and Pennsylvania are in the middle where there is no specific duty to retreat from anywhere you have a legal right to be when attacked with deadly force. Remember though, that if you had a way out that was safe and still killed someone, not only does it weaken the self-defense argument, but there may be civil liabilities also. In addition, situations where defending another person can be similarly complex; such as if you defend someone who has no legal right to be somewhere, or is committing some other crime like drug possession that may not be apparent, but is then discovered by police. Trespassing is the most often part not understood. You can never justify homicide for trespassing anywhere in the US, there must be at least felony property crime in play in states like Texas; but most states require immediate danger to life or some other violent crime such as rape, etc. One final note, read and consult MULTIPLE sources. DO NOT take the opinions of any police or peace officers, they are specifically prohibited from providing legal advice. And please, please, PLEASE don't take your drinking buddy Bubba's word.


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