BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Shane Casado was found not guilty of both second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter Thursday afternoon. Prosecutors argued that Casado shot and killed Rachael Wierzbicki in November 2018.
Zachary Perkins, who was Witness #2, tells 7ABC that he saw it all happen and the verdict shocked him.
“I was not ready for that. I really didn't think that it would be that outcome at all,” says Perkins.
Casado says he never intended to harm Wierzbicki and that he had fired a warning shot.
“I think the reality is Shane never intended for this to happen and the jury saw that he never intended for this to happen,” says Casado’s attorney Teo Siguenza after the verdict.
Casado says he acted in self-defense and feared for his life. He says Wierzbicki was charging towards him when he fired his rifle.
“There certainly were aspects of justification. I think the jury got it right,” says Siguenza.
Perkins tells us he barely knew Wierzbicki, but believed the shooting was not self-defense.
“It happened so quickly. There was no warning shot. It's not like he took a shot then took a step back, like no. If someone's coming at you, you don't take a warning shot. But that's the other part. She wasn't coming at him. She was kicking his car. He followed up on her. He walked up on her when she was kicking his car and shot her. There was no hesitation in what he did. It wasn't like he took a warning shot and took a step back and then fired again. It wasn't anything like that,” says Perkins.
Legal experts say those are two critical facts, and depending on how the jury saw it, could have led to the acquittal.
“I think the warning shot is something that is indicative of intent,” says Harmony Healy, counsel with HoganWillig Law Firm, and was not associated with the case.
“There had to be evidence, and I assume there was, that she had threatened him, that he had felt threatened... that this was a reaction that was quote on quote justified by the circumstances,” says Retired State Supreme Court Justice Penny Wolfgang.
To the prosecution, self-defense didn’t make sense.
“This girl was considerably shorter, smaller than him is simply going to threaten him, like I said, is ridiculous,” says Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.
Flynn told 7ABC that his office will not appeal.