[UPDATE] Parents Speak Out - Drug Deal Goes Bad Leaving a Man Dead

By: Candace Sweat Email
By: Candace Sweat Email

UPDATE 1/27/2011 at 12:05am By Candace Sweat

A grand jury finds that there is not enough evidence to charge a Suwannee County man with his friend's murder.

21-year-old Bryan Van Auken faced charges of home invasion robbery and felony murder of 47-year-old Robert Koester.

Authorities say he and Koester went to David Ortiz's home at 1615 Northwest Hamilton Avenue on January 3rd to buy drugs.

They say Koester attacked Ortiz, and that's when Otiz's 16-year-old son Michael entered the room and shot Koester dead.

The grand jury came back with a "no true bill" this week, meaning there is no probable cause to decide that a crime has been committed.
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UPDATE 1/13 at 12:15am By Candace Sweat

The parents of a man charged with murder are speaking out on behalf of their son and have created a facebook page with 250 supporters.

21-year-old Bryan Van Auken is behind bars at the Suwannee County jail facing charges of home invasion robbery and felony murder of 47-year-old Robert Koester.

Authorities say he and Koester went to David Ortiz's home at 1615 Northwest Hamilton Avenue on January 3rd to buy drugs.

They say Koester attacked Ortiz, and that's when Otiz's 16-year-old son Michael entered the room and shot Koester dead. Now Van Auken is facing charges for Koester's murder.

Van Auken's parents contacted WCTV saying they want to tell their son's side of the story.

"Just because two people are at the same place at the same time doesn't mean they are there for the same reason. Someone has to be punished right? Somebody died. Just because my son was with him in the same vehicle doesn't mean my son had any knowledge," said Van Auken's mother Sandra Gaskin.

Van Auken's parents went on to say they understand that buying pot is illegal, but buying pot is a far cry from committing an armed robbery home invasion, and it certainly shouldn't constitute murder. The investigation has been turned over to the state attorney's office.
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UPDATE 1/6 at 11:30 By Candace Sweat

The family of a Suwannee County man accused of home invasion robbery and murder is speaking out on his behalf.

21-year-old Bryan Van Auken is behind bars at the Suwannee County jail facing charges of home invasion robbery and felony murder of 47-year-old Robert Koester.

Authorities say he and Koester went to David Ortiz's home at 1615 Northwest Hamilton Avenue to buy drugs.

Koester attacked Ortiz, and that's when Otiz's 16-year-old son Michael entered the room and shot Koester dead. Van Auken's mother contacted WCTV saying they wanted to tell their side of the story.

A person claiming to be a family member posted a comment to our website. It says "He is a good family man and always has been, maybe you should see that this is his first offense and think wow maybe this will be a learning experience."

They've also created a Facebook page for Van Auken called "Free Bryan Van Auken"
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The Police Chief in Live Oak says every man has the right to defend his home, even if he is allegedly selling drugs from that home.

And that's why he says it is the man on the opposite side of the trigger facing murder charges, not the one who actually pulled it.

21-year-old Bryan Van Auken faces charges of home invasion robbery and felony murder, though he didn't pull trigger.

On Monday night, Van Auken and his buddy, 47-year-old Robert Koester, went to Ralph Otiz's home on Northwest Hamilton Road to buy drugs, and at some point decided to rob him.

"And during the attempted robbery one of the suspects was shot and killed by the home owner's son," said Live Oak Police Chief, Buddy Williams.

And even though Otiz's 16-year-old son Michael shot and killed Koester, to law enforcement, the boy was just protecting his home and his 52-year-old father, and Van Auken is the one responsible for his accomplice's murder.

"If two people are deciding to rob a location and commit a crime and one of the suspects dies in the commission of the crime, you're charged as if you actually committed the murder. It was the act that lead to the death. So in the state of Florida, we charge as if that person committed the murder," said Williams.

Neighbors say they didn't know anything had happened until they saw police driving by their homes.

"I thought maybe a stabbing or something when I saw all the cars, but when they said a shot gun I said 'Wow how come we didn't hear that?,'" said neighbor, Barbara Yates.

Now it is up to the state to decide how they want to proceed regarding the fate of Van Auken.

We did knock on the door at the Ortiz residence and both Ralph and his son came to the door but did wish to comment.

As for Ortiz, Chief Williams says he not facing charges at this time for his alleged drug dealing activity.

However, the investigation is still open and has now been turned over to the State Attorney's Office.

This is at least the third shooting death to take place in Suwannee County in the past five months. Chief Williams says when the economy goes down, crime rates often go up.

For more on the story, go to Homicide Investigation in Live Oak

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Live Oak Police Department Release:

Homicide Investigation
1615 NW Hamilton Avenue
Live Oak, FL. 32064
Monday, 01/03/2010, 11:37pm.

Officers with the LOPD responded to the above address in reference to a 9-1-1 call that there had been a shooting at the residence. On arriving, officers found a victim in the laundry room of the north side of the residence. The victim appeared to have been shot at least once.

During the investigation, it was learned that at least two persons arrived at the residence at 1615 NW Hamilton Avenue, Live Oak, FL. 32964. The two persons arriving at the residence are identified as Robert Bruce Koester, w/m, age 47, of 18610 181st Place, Live Oak, FL. 32960, and Brian Van Auken, w/m, age 22, last known address of 13273 225th Road, Live Oak, FL. 32960.

Investigation reveals an alleged drug/narcotic transaction that started to take place with the resident, Ralph Michael Ortiz, w/m, 52 years of age. Details at this point remain under investigation. A fight broke out between Koester, who was armed with a revolver, and Ortiz, the resident. During the fight, Ortiz’s son, a 16 year old juvenile, Anthony Michael Ortiz, entered the room with a rifle. The juvenile fired at least once striking Koester.

Following the shooting, Van Auken fled from the scene and was later located at another residence on Hamilton Avenue. Van Auken was subsequently charged after a preliminary investigation with Home Invasion Robbery and Felony Murder. He is in custody at the Suwannee County Jail, Live Oak, FL. 32964.

The shooting victim’s remains were sent to the Medical Examiners Office in Jacksonville, FL. to determine the exact cause of death. This investigation is still pending results of lab tests and the Medical Examiner’s Report.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Sandra Location: Live Oak on Feb 6, 2011 at 01:03 PM
    I would like to thank everyone that gave my son at least the benefit of doubt. I realize that not everyone knows the whole truth, and wish that all the facts were out there to be seen, that said the Grand Jury found Bryan innocent. I feel very badly for the people who have to face unjust and unfair charges, I have done a lot of research and came up with this, it appears that between 13% and 17% of people convicted are not guilty, this is HORRIFIC...but true, white, black, hispanic, blue, green, or purple it does not matter to me if you are innocent you are innocent. I truly wish every family the very best and will be happy to pray for anyone and everyone, here is my e-mail wd_flower@hotmail.com, any help I can give I will gladly give, I have learned a great deal throughout the events with my son and through school to be a paralegal, if it's hate mail don't bother, but if you need help, I will do what I can. God Bless.
  • by james Location: tallahasse on Jan 28, 2011 at 01:02 PM
    here we go again, another white guy gets off of being charged and convicted for something the police would have buried a black guy for. the truth of the matter is that, black people are in prison right now for killing people in self defense for being a robbery victim. the police excuse is that if u sell or deal with drugs, you go to jail anyway. black guys get robbed and end up having to shoot and kill the robbers all the time and they go to prison for it. yes, it is common sense that if you are getting robbed and your life is in jeopardy, you should defend yourself. but tell that to the black guys who were told that they shouldnt have had drugs on them and now theyre doing 20 years.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 27, 2011 at 10:35 AM
    We knew it would turn out the way it did. Four scores and seven years ago our forefathers.......What happen!
  • by Anonymous on Jan 27, 2011 at 09:18 AM
    Well everyone its done & over with now. No need to pout or argue anymore. Case closed. Rob(may he rest in peace) got his punishment for the crime he commited, Bryan served enough time to cover his drug buying charge & the ortiz family was cleared by an act of defense. Hopefully everyone involved learned their lesson & if not God will see to their punishment eventually.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 27, 2011 at 08:04 AM
    hummmm..., A death that happens during the commission of a felony can be charged to those committing the felony. In this case, there is not enough evidence to support the belief that Auken knew that Koester had planned to rob Ortiz. The act of home invasion robbery (a felony) would allow for the extra charges for murder in this case if Auken was actually involved (supported by evidence) in the robbery. Oh, by the way, this case never went to trial.
  • by hummmm... Location: tally on Jan 27, 2011 at 07:12 AM
    Taking this case to trail was stupid and a waste of state dollar money. Why would someone that went with the guy that was killed be charged with his murder. How about suicide on himself? People should be made responsible for their own actions.
  • by GV Location: Ga on Jan 27, 2011 at 06:49 AM
    Ireadyou,there is a reason why the homeowner and his son are not charged with selling drugs.Care to take a guess why?I'll tell you,because no drugs or evidense were found.Wow,it sure doesn'take a genius to figure that one out.
  • by Vic Location: Tallahassee on Jan 27, 2011 at 06:31 AM
    Something is very fishy in this county. They like to protect thugs and low life druggies. Money, Money, Money.
  • by anonymous Location: quincy on Jan 27, 2011 at 06:19 AM
    i have one question how is this fair? he was in a commision of a felon when this happen the same crime took place in polk county and this person was given life in prison you know he was a black man i guess whit still rules
  • by JIm Location: Gadsden County on Jan 27, 2011 at 06:09 AM
    To the family of Bryan Van Auken. He skated on this one. What's he going to do next? Get ready! Keep your facebook account.
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