Accused of shooting fleeing home invader, he succesfully argued it was self-defense

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A man accused of gunning down someone who had tried to break into his Highland Road apartment was found not guilty when a jury agreed he fired in self-defense.

Juan Contreras, 23, fatally shot 21-year-old Francisco Koslowski during an October 2020 altercation that spilled into in the parking lot of the complex where he lived with his girlfriend, Neve Doucet, prosecutors said. The shooting occurred after Koslowski, his girlfriend Grace Sandford and three of their friends went to the defendant’s apartment to pick a fight with Doucet, who was Koslowski’s ex, according to court documents.

Doucet told investigators she and Koslowski had been arguing on social media before the group — which Contreras’ attorneys described as a “mob” — came to her and Contreras’ apartment and threatened her. They used a fire extinguisher to bang on the couple’s front door, defense attorneys said during their closing argument.

After Koslowski tossed a flowerpot through the front window, Sandford crawled into the apartment through the shattered glass, police documents say. She and Koslowksi were met by Contreras, who was armed with a shotgun.

Koslowski managed to snatch the gun out of Contreras’ hand as he aimed it at them through the broken window, document say.

Prosecutors said the group had left the apartment and were walking back to their cars when Contreras pursued them and used a rifle to shoot Koslowski through the heart from the second-floor balcony.

Jurors were left to decide if the shooting was a justifiable homicide and Contreras killed the victim in self-defense. Prosecutors from the East Baton Rouge District Attorneys office sought to prove that Contreras became the aggressor when he re-armed himself with a second gun after the initial encounter had ended.

Contreras’s attorneys said he was trying to protect his girlfriend, Doucet, with whom he has a child.

Jurors deliberated about five hours before finding Contreras not guilty of manslaughter, a crime that carried a 40-year maximum. The verdict ended a four-day trial that began last week inside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.

“When you bring violence to someone’s doorstep, you cannot be surprised when force is met with force,” Contreras’ attorney, Kathryn Jakuback said during her closing argument.

Prosecutors indicated Contreras walked 107 feet from his doorstep after the group left his apartment and perched atop the balcony, using a scope to aim his rifle at Koslowski. One of the district attorneys held the rifle up to show jurors the weapon as the state closed out the trial.

“They want the killing of this young man to be everybody else’s fault but his,” East Baton Rouge Assistant District Attorney Melissa Morvant said Tuesday afternoon. “When those people went to that apartment, do I think Frank and Grace were wrong for that? Yeah. Probably should’ve gone to jail for it. But you should not have a death sentence because you do something like that.” 

Contreras’ lawyers told jurors the threat wasn’t completely gone when Koslowski and “Grace’s posse” congregated in the parking lot after the exchange inside Contreras’ apartment. They suggested the group may have been preparing for another attack, this time armed with the shotgun the victim took from Contreras.

She said the defendant was worried about his girlfriend, who was missing from the apartment after the initial chaos. 

“He was protecting his home,” Jakuback said. “They weren’t retreating, they were regrouping. So as jurors, you’ll have to decide how is one to know that that threat was gone.”

According to an arrest warrant, the incident happened late the afternoon of Oct. 3, 2020 outside Contreras and Doucet’s residence the Hub at Baton Rouge apartment complex in the 5100 block of Highland Road. Police arrived and found Koslowski lying dead in the parking lot with a shotgun near his body, along with two crutches he used to walk. Officers found the bolt-action 30-aught-6 rifle inside the front door of Contreras’ unit.

The defendant said he shot Koslowski because the man was turning to point the shotgun at him. But investigators took Contreras into custody because his story conflicted with accounts from other other eyewitnesses, who made no indications the victim ever raised the weapon he was holding.

One neighbor who lived on the ground level of the apartment complex said she heard Contreras tell Koslowski “put down my gun” three times before a single shot rang out. The neighbor, who watched the incident unfold from her window, testified that she saw the life dissipate from koslowski’s body as he crumbled to the ground after being shot.

Contreras was originally charged with second-degree murder; prosecutors later indicted him on a single count of manslaughter.

Doucet took the stand Monday and testified about the fatal incident. Attorneys on both sides played recordings of 911 calls she made as the ordeal was escalating. 

Jakuback, Contreras’ attorney, told jurors Sandford and her friends’ stories drastically changed from what they initially said the night of the shooting. She also noted that investigators recovered a stun gun at the scene that belonged to someone in the group. 

“We know that these individuals that were rounded up by Grace, they didn’t come unarmed. They came with the intent to do violence,” the defense lawyer said. “This wasn’t simply a group that was going to show up and scream and shout and waive their arms. They came with intent, they were prepared.”

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About Mary Weyand 11728 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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