Diaz presesents testimony

By Paul Wagner and Daron Walker

Defendant claims victim charged at him

A blind NIU senior charged with voluntary manslaughter testified Friday that his victim charged him before being shot.

Gerardo Diaz and Peter Gogola, another blind NIU student, are charged in connection with the July 22, 1986 shooting death of Robert Lurz, 30, who was killed while trying to enter Diaz‘ apartment.

Diaz testified at a bench trial before Judge Rex Meilinger that he heard Lurz and Gogola yelling outside his apartment. He said he picked up a rifle from his study and told Lurz not to enter the apartment. He said he then heard something hit the handle of the screen door.

Diaz said Lurz started yelling at him and he heard the screen door of his apartment slam. He said he could tell Lurz charged him by the sound of Lurz’ voice being nearer.

“Then, I smelled booze on his (Lurz‘) breath. I pulled the trigger. I was afraid Bob (Lurz) would do great bodily harm to me,” Diaz said.

Diaz said he did not know how many times he fired the rifle. He said he heard the first shot but it was like “a long continuous bang.” He said his next memory was lying on the floor. He said he did not know how he ended up on the floor or whether or not he lost consciousness.

Diaz said he obtained the rifle used to shoot Lurz from Gogola, who lived in the same apartment complex. He said Gogola asked him to keep the rifle because Gogola feared Lurz would steal or hurt someone with it.

Just before the shooting, Diaz said he went to Ronald Stewart’s apartment in the same building where he told Stewart he was afraid. Diaz said he asked Stewart if he had a gun, but, “Ron (Stewart) told me in the event I have to defend myself, the rifle is the best thing to rely on,” Diaz said.

The defendant had met Lurz in October of 1985. Diaz said Lurz and Gogola came to his apartment on two occasions that month. Diaz said on the first occasion they stayed about one hour and on the second they stayed about 20 minutes.

Diaz said a conversation with Gogola before the day of the shooting led him to believe Lurz was violent and abusive.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Micheal Coghlan brought four members of Lurz’s family to the stand before resting his case.

Dixie Awe, mother of Lurz, said her son was depressed before the shooting. She testified Lurz said to her, “I don’t know if I want to fight or cry.”

Awe said she visited Diaz after the shooting. “I went there because I’m the kind of person who raised six kids. I went there to find out what really happened,” Awe said.

Damien Runde, a brother-in-law of the victim, told the court he and his wife Sarah (Lurz’ sister) visited Diaz on the day of Lurz‘ funeral, July 26, 1986, because they wanted to find out what really happened.

unde said he and his wife had a conversation with Diaz. Runde said his wife asked Diaz why he did it and Diaz said to Sarah, “We just had to.”

“Gerry (Diaz) said he was real sorry. He had to do it. He just said he had to do it,” Runde said.

Sarah Runde said she could not remember Lurz ever slapping his mother. “He’s yelled at my mom a couple of times. He had a mouth on him, but only when he was drinking.”

unde remembered more about the conversation she had with Diaz. “He (Diaz) said he wasn’t a criminal. He said he was a hero,” Runde said.

Lurz’ sister-in-law, Barbara Lurz, testified that she never saw Lurz hit people. She said she was aware of the victim’s drinking and how his personality changed when he was drinking.

Closing arguments in the trial will be heard today, starting at 10 a.m.