Kamhen Saleh is charged with two counts of murder. Police say he shot and killed two people outside an Office Max store in Porterville Friday.
Alla Saleh, Kamhen's brother says he was surprised and panicked when his brother called him saying he shot two men who were breaking into his car.
"He's trying to hang in there but it's tough for everybody our family is devastated," Alla Saleh said. "It's just tough to handle I mean he was scared he told me he was scared for his life."
Kamhen Saleh plead not-guilty to the murder charges Tuesday. Police say he shot and killed Omar Calderon and Adam Verdusco as they were stealing a backpack filled with $44,000 in cash from his car. Saleh's family owns several businesses that cash checks for agricultural workers. They believe the victims were following Saleh as he left the bank and went into Office Max.
Attorney John Jackson says police reports show the victims had gang tattoos and were suspects in other crimes. Jackson says a knife was found at the scene and one of the victims had pepper spray in his pocket.
"These guys were armed, they had weapons and they were out to protect themselves or inflict injury on other people should this happen and this happened," Jackson said.
Alla says his brother worked hard for his family and was attending Porterville College to earn a degree in business. He says he is not a violent person.
"He's a great kid you know he doesn't get in trouble he just worked," Alla Saleh said.
"I think it's insane that the district attorney's office would choose, basically, to err on the side of these criminals rather than business owners." Jackson said.
The DA's office disagrees, saying Kamhen Saleh had no lawful right to shoot and kill Calderon and Verdusco.
"Based on the information we have and the circumstances of the crime and crime scene itself it doesn't appear to be a case of self-defense," said Anthony Fultz, Tulare County Assistant District Attorney.
Kamhen Saleh will be back in court on Friday where his family is hoping a judge will grant him bail. Saleh faces two murder charges with special circumstances that could make him eligible for the death penalty, if convicted.