Long Beach, California

From the Long Beach Press-Telegram of April 17, 2007

L.B. man, 52, cleared of murder charges

Police and prosecutors say Breul acted in self defense during argument.

A 52-year-old Long Beach man accused of murder was cleared of the charge last week after police and prosecutors found the case was one of self-defense, authorities said Monday.

Gregg Breul was arrested at the scene of the crime shortly after he allegedly shot 32-year-old Ian Birkett on April 6, said Officer Juan Gomez, a Long Beach Police Department spokesman.

Officers responding to a 911 call found both men – whom police described as acquaintances – at Breul’s home on West 47th Street near Rio Avenue. Paramedics rushed the victim to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where he died, Gomez said.

As homicide investigators delved into the case, however, the evidence and witness statements all pointed to self defense, according to a report filed by Deputy District Attorney Laurie Trammell.

Witnesses told police Birkett had gone to Breul’s home to pick up his girlfriend and got into a fight with Breul as the couple began to leave.

At some point, Birkett – who was quite a bit larger than Breul – picked up a hammer. When Breul saw Birkett yelling at his girlfriend outside and told him to stop, the victim charged at Birkett, screaming that he was “going to kill him,” according to Trammell’s report.

Breul then opened fire, shooting multiple rounds until the gun’s chamber was empty, the report states.

The murder charge was dropped on April 9 and Breul was released from the Men’s Central Jail where he had been held on $1 million bail, according to court and jail records.

“It seemed to be a clear case of justifiable homicide,” Homicide Lt. Rich Rocchi said Monday. “But if any new witnesses were to come forward or new evidence is found we would investigate (further).”

Birkett’s cousin, Misty Martinez, said witnesses told his family that the men had been fighting over Birkett’s girlfriend.

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