Colorado Springs, CO.
An El Paso County jury on Friday awarded nearly $300,000 to the daughter of a burglar who was fatally shot in 2009 while breaking into an auto lot.
Parents of the victim, Robert Johnson Fox, embraced their attorneys after a judge announced the jury’s verdict, capping a two-week-long civil trial in which business owner Jovan Milanovic and two relatives were painted as vigilantes who plotted a deadly ambush rather than let authorities deal with a string of recent burglaries.
Phillip and Sue Fox, who filed suit for wrongful death in 2010 on behalf of Fox’s 3-year-old daughter, called the jury’s award a victory in their fight to seek accountability for the death of their son, who they say never posed a threat to the heavily armed men.
“Rob was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime,” Sue Fox said afterward. “I can’t excuse his actions, but he didn’t deserve to be executed.”
The exact amount of the award was $269,500, for factors such as loss of companionship and loss of future earnings. The family will also be awarded some of the costs associated with the more than yearlong legal battle.
The jury of three men and three women deliberated for 2½ days over closely contested testimony about the predawn shooting on April 19, 2009.
Fox, 20, was shot after he and a friend scaled a fence to get inside Southwest Auto Sales at 2444 Platte Place in the city’s Knob Hill neighborhood. According to the accomplice, Brian Corbin, they had smoked methamphetamine and were looking to steal anything to buy more drugs.
Corbin testified he saw two armed men charge out of a building and run in their direction, one of them shouting “we’re gonna get you” in an obscenity-laced threat. Corbin, who escaped by climbing over a car and jumping a fence, said he felt a bullet pass by him as someone fired four gunshots.
Fox was standing inside a small shed when a .45-caliber rifle bullet passed through the shed’s door and pierced his heart.
Police said in a 145-page investigative report that the intruder had knives in his pockets and one strapped to his ankle, but never posed a threat to Milanovic or the other men, his father Ljuban Milanovic and brother-in-law Srdjan Milanovic.
The men are refugees who came to the United States from the former Yugoslavia in 1998.
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