Trial Begins for Man Who Shot Suspected Thief

Authorities said Rattanavong thought the teens might break into his car

By Shawna Hendrix and Sharon Wright
|  Monday, Apr 9, 2012  |  Updated 8:53 PM CDT
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Donald Rattanavong, 58, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. Prosecutors said he shot an unarmed teen. Rattanavong says he was defending his property.

Donald Rattanavong, 58, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. Prosecutors said he shot an unarmed teen. Rattanavong says he was defending his property.

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The family of 18-year-old Guillermo Pineda, who was fatally shot in the head last summer, is demanding justice in Cook County Circuit Court Monday.

Donald Rattanavong, 58, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm following a Fourth of July shooting in Elgin.

Authorities said Rattanavong saw a group of young men approaching his property just before 11 p.m. on July 4, 2011. Thinking they might try to break into one of his family’s cars, Rattanavong ran outside, yelled at the youth to leave and fired three shots with a .25-caliber handgun.

Rattanavong walked over to check his car and noticed Pineda slumped over. Pineda had been struck near his left ear.

After firing the shots, Rattanavong said he quickly called the police.

"My client was on his own property and he was defending himself and his family from people who were engaged in criminal activity," said Rattanavong's defense attorney, Lewis Gainor.

A friend of Pineda told the Chicago Tribune they had been burglarizing unlocked cars that night but were only walking by Rattanavong’s property when the shooting occurred and had no intention of robbing him. None of the boys with Pineda that night were charged with a crime. 

The case is being compared to the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, as both incidents involve a man who shot and killed a "suspicious" unarmed teen.

However Gainor argues that the cases are not similar.

"The two circumstances are completely different. The jury is going to hear evidence that it was a group of four men in the neighborhood who were engaged in a crime spree. They were burglarizing people's vehicles. That's as simple as it gets," he said.

Rattanavong was found to be in possession of two guns without a firearms owner’s identification card, but hasn’t been charged with any weapons violation. Since his arrest, Rattanavong has been free on $5,000 bail. 

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