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Ex-Police Chief Acquitted in Uzi Shooting Death

Boston Globe via YellowBrix

January 15, 2011

PELHAM, MA – The emotionally racked trial of a former Pelham police chief charged in connection with the accidental shooting death of an 8-year-old boy at a gun fair came to an end yesterday with a jury acquitting Edward Fleury, who cried at the verdict.

Fleury, 53, was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and multiple counts of furnishing a machine gun to a minor. Christopher Bizilj of Ashford, Conn., lost control of an Uzi submachine gun and shot himself in the head in front of shocked onlookers that included his father and brother. The jurors had viewed chilling video footage of the youth’s death, which occurred in October 2008, before they rendered their verdict.

Several members of Fleury’s family embraced him after the verdict was announced in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield, said his lawyer, Rosemary C. Scapicchio of Boston.

“He’s just elated to be able to have a chance to put his life back together,’’ Scapicchio said in a phone interview.

Fleury said he regretted holding the machine gun shoot and will never do it again.

“I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to the Bizilj family,’’ Fleury said in a courthouse hallway to TV cameras and a throng of reporters. “It was always meant to be an educational event for people, and it’s unfortunate this terrible accident happened.’’

He said his arrest and the trial were devastating and that he would rather be “dropped into hell than go through this again.’’

His wife, Jacalyn, said: “I’m glad to have my husband back. He’s an innocent man.’’

Prosecutors argued that Fleury was criminally reckless because he allowed children to illegally shoot machine guns under the supervision of a firing range officer who was 15 at the time and who lacked proper licensing and training.

Scapicchio, however, argued that the boy’s father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, signed a waiver acknowledging the risks involved in letting his son shoot, including death, and that the event had occurred for several years without any problems.

“Our defense was that this was a tragic accident,’’ she said.

The charges against Fleury carried a combined sentence of up to 50 years in prison.

Christopher Bizilj died when the Uzi submachine gun he fired suddenly tilted upward and then backward in his small hands and a bullet pierced his head.

The fair was held at the Westfield Sportsman’s Club in Westfield and was organized by a company that Fleury owned.

Last week, jurors gasped as they watched a 15-second video clip of the boy’s death; his father had been filming his turn with the gun. Prosecutors stopped the video at the precise instant when the child remained standing but mortally wounded, sparing the jury the image of watching his body fall.

Before jurors saw the clip, Charles Bizilj testified that immediately after the accident he rushed to his crumpled son’s side and discovered that “a large portion of his cranium was missing.’’

Hampden District Attorney Mark Mastroianni said last night in a phone interview that his office accepts the jury’s verdict. He said he would meet with his staff and his predecessor, William M. Bennett, who tried the Fleury case as a special prosecutor, to review the evidence before determining whether to move forward with pending charges against the two Connecticut gun dealers who supplied weapons at the event, Carl Giuffre of Hartford and Domenico Spano of New Milford.

“There’s just a constant sense of what an awful situation this is for all of the people involved,’’ he said. “There’s a young boy who’s gone, a young boy who’s not with us anymore and not with his family anymore.’’

The Westfield Sportsman’s Club was also charged criminally in the case and pleaded no contest in March, agreeing to pay fines totaling $11,000. The payments were split between two charities in the boy’s name.

An attorney for the club, Thomas Drechsler of Boston, said yesterday in a phone interview that he would not have been surprised by either an acquittal or a conviction in the Fleury trial. He said the club was facing different circumstances and the plea agreement was acceptable to the Bizilj family.

Another stipulation of the club’s plea agreement was that automatic weapons would never again be allowed; Drechsler said club officials decided to ban such events before a judge issued the order.

The club “is a very responsible member of the community,’’ he said.

Christopher Bizilj’s parents could not be reached for comment. His mother, Suzanne, said when the club filed its plea that the negligence in the case was “hard to comprehend’’ and that her son’s death left her traumatized.

“The emotional trauma of Christopher’s death haunts me every day,’’ she said in a statement read by a prosecutor. “We trusted this event would be fun and safe, with trained safety officers present. . . . In my opinion, the event was poorly supervised, with dangerous weapons in the hands of inept instructors.’’


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  • Images_max160_sq90_max50

    t1401hm

    over 3 years ago

    1754 Comments

    That's what waivers are for.

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50

    rhood

    over 3 years ago

    23592 Comments

    This was a sound decision made by the jury. Bad things happen to good people for no good reason at all. There is an assumed risk involved in the shooting firarms, this was an unfortunate tragic accident that no one forsaw happening. That event most likely had young kids participate in the past with no bad outcome.

  • Flags_and_stars_max50

    djs2v

    over 3 years ago

    5628 Comments

    Well said skanea1.

  • Img_0103_max50

    LAWMANTUKES

    over 3 years ago

    6948 Comments

    "Bump"..skanea1

  • Img_0103_max50

    LAWMANTUKES

    over 3 years ago

    6948 Comments

    Well said "DonnaLynn" Bump..!!!

  • Herosonpatrol_max50

    BeachAngel

    over 3 years ago

    5668 Comments

    Tragic instance, sad all the way around. Chief; definitely rough to live with, but hard lesson learned & try to put your life back together.. maybe somehow put into action something to help prevent these instances from happening to anyone else.

  • Image_max50

    LanaNJ

    over 3 years ago

    6250 Comments

    IMO, (not plugging Gun Control in the least bit) But Seems like there's been some Bad Decisions ALL across the Board on this One. A Kid-Friendly Gun-Shoot with an UZI? An Uzi submachine gun that can shoot 600 rounds in under a minute, doesn't seem like something a kid should be playing with. Secondly, Who hired, or showed a 15 year old how to become a Firing Range Insructor, and how old was he when he started? Have we forgotten about all these School Shootings? I think a Mansluaghter Charge May have Been a Bit Much for Fluery, But at the Same Token, Shouldn't A Gun-Shoot only involve Mature Adults as Participants?. As a Mother I feel Deeply Sorry for the Bizilj Family, and may this Tragic Event send a Message to Fathers, that Maybe Kids should be Shooting Hoops, Not Guns !

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 3 years ago

    Horrible accident.

  • Jack_bauer_max50

    Allen705

    over 3 years ago

    1466 Comments

    I hate to see this, but I want to see the video to judge for myself. Was the chief at least behind or around the boy to grab the gun? If not, he should have went to prison. If he was, it was too bad he could have just grabbed the gun for recoil control. At the very least, let him have a hand on the gun for recoil control not just throw a kid a uzi and let him spray bullets.

  • Cute_max50

    sgtdemanda

    over 3 years ago

    578 Comments

    Oh I had finally managed to forget about this case and then I read this. I wanted to throw up the first time I read about it. The horror for his poor father and brother.... A senseless tragedy all around and my heart goes out to his family. I have 2 little ones at home. I have no idea how these people cope day to day but they are in my prayers.

  • Tlusa_max50

    rsmith6322

    over 3 years ago

    1088 Comments

    Bump Whalewatcher....as the father I cannot imagine the horror of seeing this. Everytime you close your eyes.

  • 2008_masonic_coin_max50

    skanea1

    over 3 years ago

    958 Comments

    This is a horrible tragic accident. And given all the facts, this is exactly what it was. It is easy to do Monday morning quarterbacking, but guns are designed for one thing only. You don't put an automatic weapon in the hands of a child. I am not anti gun. I was raised around them and trained with them. When my boy was 8 years old, he shot my 22. As he got older, of course the caliber moved up as well.

    I feel sorry for everyone in this. There really are no winners. I offer my prayers to all who are involved.

  • Police_car_max50

    MidnightMike

    over 3 years ago

    470 Comments

    I hope everybody can move on from here--incredibly tragic for all concerned. Donnalynn, you hit the nail right on the head. bleu1240, I have to disagree. Having this case heard in court and having the citizens render a verdict--an acquittal--was the proper course of action.

  • Thinker_max50

    darsavmo

    over 3 years ago

    11344 Comments

    There are several people at fault for this tragedy including the Chief, however it does not warrant the criminal charges filed. Hope the Chief and everyone else learned from this...

  • Marvin_max50

    lajustice

    over 3 years ago

    1178 Comments

    Although I am glad the chief was aqquitted, I cannot comprehend the pain all involved have suffered. This appears like the prosecutor told himself if i dont try him i'll get crusified, so he did. How many times have we all seen this. I myself handle teaching my son, who is now 17, how to handle a weapon. I supervise every part of this. I do not leave it to others, but in the same way, the father took his son to what appeared to have been a organized event. Bad outcome all the way around.

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