A fatally armed robber shot a gas station attendant in Northern California but he will not be charged with murder, presumably because the attacker could claim self-defense, police said Wednesday.

Ronald Jackson Jr., 20, was initially arrested on suspicion of armed robbery and murder in connection with the slaying of James Williams, 36, early Saturday morning at a Chevron in Antioch, police said.

Jackson and another man, who was still being searched for Thursday, were fleeing the robbery when Williams gave chase and opened fire on the suspects, police said. Jackson was hit in the leg and returned fire, killing Williams, police said.

Antioch detectives presented their findings to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and prosecutors «opted to charge Jackson with robbery, possession of stolen property, and raising firearms, but declined to charge him with murder.» , according to a police statement.

Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office in Martinez, California.google maps

A representative for the district attorney confirmed Thursday that Jackson was charged with alleged second-degree robbery, a special charge of using a firearm in that crime, and receiving more than $950 worth of stolen property, offenses that could land him behind the scenes. bars for up to 15 years. but no murder

On Thursday, the district attorney’s office did not immediately explain its reasons for not charging Jackson with murder.

The decision not to pursue a homicide case surprised his girlfriend and co-worker Annette Matamoroz, who was in the store when Williams was shot.

«I totally disagree with this,» Matamoroz told NBC News through tears. “It is a murder. It doesn’t look like murder, it’s murder. What else could it be?»

Since Jackson was injured by Williams outside the Chevron, a legal expert says the suspect could have argued that he was leaving the scene and had a legal right to protect himself.

“Self defense is a temporary concept. So, in other words, if this event had occurred inside the store, it would have been one thing,” said Steven Clark, a San Jose criminal defense attorney and NBC Bay Area legal analyst.

«But when the guy got away, the concept of the clerk being reasonably scared, that changed considerably. Now you have a felony, which the thief did, but you can’t execute the guy under those circumstances. So the thief then got the right to legitimate defense”.

Matamoroz believes that Williams would still be alive today without Jackson and his accomplice joining Chevron.

“None of this would have happened if they hadn’t come to the store. They came with those intentions (to commit a crime). They didn’t come here just to shop,” he said.

While I agreed with Contra Costa County DA Diana Becton decision not to seek a murder prosecution, Clark blamed her for failing to quickly and forcefully explain the rationale to an understandably concerned and confused public.

«There’s a general doctrine that when you’re the initiator of the problem, like the thief was, your self-defense rights are lessened than if you’re the victim, like the employee,» Clark said.

«There’s going to be potential for criticism here. ‘Why do we go to such lengths not to charge an armed robber with the murder of an innocent store clerk who is protecting his premises?’ That seems to turn the law on its head, that seems to turn logic on its head. The district attorney needs to carefully articulate to the public why this decision was made.»

Matamoroz worked at Chevron itself but did not work on the watch when he kept Williams company before his death. Matamoroz was in the bathroom when Williams told him not to move.

“He had told me, ‘They’re trying to rob this place, just say here, just stay here in the bathroom,’” Matamoroz said.

«He was a loving, caring, genuine man. You don’t come across too many people like that in life. He genuinely cared, actually. He cared about people I didn’t even know. He wanted to help everyone, he wanted everyone.» be fine all the time. If he could do better, that’s what he would do.»

Matamoroz then burst into tears and his voice trailed off: «That’s why I want him here because he would make this better and I wouldn’t feel like that.»