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Jury finds Colorado Springs shoplifter mostly responsible for being shot by store owner

January 9, 2014 Updated: January 10, 2014 at 12:26 am
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Liquor store owner Chang Ho Yi will not have to pay damages to Bryson Dewberry, whom he shot in the face after a shoplifting incident on Oct. 25, 2010. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK/The Gazette

The shoplifter goes home empty-handed - again.

An El Paso County jury on Thursday tossed a lawsuit filed by a thief who says he shoplifted a bottle of vodka and ran out of a Colorado Springs liquor store only to be chased down by the store owner and shot in the face at point blank range.

After a three-day trial in 4th Judicial District Court, a panel of three men and three women found both men were negligent but determined that the thief, Bryson Dewberry, was more responsible for his injuries than the store owner, Chang Ho Yi.

"Once the jury determined he (Dewberry) was more responsible than Yi, he would get nothing," said the plaintiff's attorney Durant D. Davidson, who declined further comment. The panel assigned 65 percent of the blame to Dewberry and the rest to Yi.

The judgment was the next turn-of-the screw in a more than three-year legal saga surrounding the Oct. 24, 2010 shooting at Austin Bluffs Plaza Liquor, 4150 Austin Bluffs Parkway.

During a Colorado Springs police investigation that ensued, Yi adamantly denied there had been a shooting, or even that he owned a gun.

Concluding the shooting wasn't lawful, police referred the case to the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office for prosecution as an attempted murder.

Rather than charge the store owner, the District Attorney's Office convened a Grand Jury to review the circumstances.

Prosecutors dropped the case when the Grand Jury, which met twice in secret, voted against indicting Yi on criminal charges.

"We're pleased with the verdict," said Rob Jones, Yi's attorney. "I think the jury did the right thing."

During the trial, Jones framed the case as an act of self-defense, saying that Yi was struck in the head upon exiting the store and raised his revolver in the belief that other occupants of Dewberry's car, parked near the store entrance, were "coming at him."

Jones said Yi advised police afterward that he didn't want to talk to them without an attorney.

Dewberry testified that after swiping a bottle of vodka, he ran directly out of the store without confronting anyone and jumped in the backseat of a friend's car. Yi ran after him in pursuit and stuck the pistol through an open window and fired at close range.

The bullet passed through Dewberry's jaw, shattering the bone and splitting his tongue, and also wounded a 17-year-old in the backseat.

Dewberry racked up $142,000 in medical expenses for reconstructive surgeries, and had also sought compensation for another surgery doctors say he needs.

Despite Dewberry's documented medical bills, jurors found that he had incurred economic losses of $830.62. Because Yi was determined to be less at fault than Dewberry, however, he pays nothing.

Dewberry appeared unmoved by the verdict, even as he said that without a civil judgment he is unable to pay for a third surgery to correct a speech impediment.

Asked if he was angered by the outcome, he replied: "I have no reason to be. I'm alive."

Yi and his son left the courthouse without comment. Jurors declined to answer questions about their conclusions.

Still to be decided in the case is a second lawsuit filed by Dewberry alleging that after the shooting, Yi fraudulently transferred real estate and assets to his wife should he be sued for negligence.

"I suspect it'll be dismissed," said Jones, adding that the basis for the fraudulent transfer claimed that Yi was looking to "avoid consequences of this case."

After Thursday's judgment, Jones said, "This case has no consequences."

Dewberry wasn't charged, either for shoplifting or for Yi's claims on the stand that he was struck in the head during the incident.

What became of the vodka - a $30 bottle of Grey Goose - remains unclear after both the civil and criminal proceedings, Yi's attorney said.

"We don't know what happened to the liquor."

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