Gun club, police chief indicted in boy's Uzi death


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Gun club, police chief indicted in boy's Uzi death
Boston – Police Chief, Gun Club Indicted In Boy's Uzi Death
Play Video Video: Gun club, 3 others charged in boy's Uzi death AP AP – In this photo taken Oct. 29, 2005, Dominic Spano, front, of New Milford, Conn., and his son, Michael … SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Three men, including a small-town police chief, were indicted Thursday on involuntary manslaughter counts in the gun-fair death of an 8-year-old who accidentally shot himself in the head with an Uzi that a prosecutor said he never should have been allowed to handle.

The club where the fair was held also was charged. The fair had promised shooters would have certified instructors in an advertisement, but District Attorney William Bennett said the child, Christopher Bizilj, was supervised by an uncertified 15-year-old boy.

Christopher, of Ashford, Conn., lost control of the 9mm micro submachine gun as it recoiled while he was firing at a pumpkin Oct. 26 at the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo at the Westfield Sportsman's Club in western Massachusetts.

Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury was charged because he owns the sponsor of the gun fair, COP Firearms & Training. Two men who brought the automatic weapon to the show, Carl Guiffre of Hartford, Conn., and Domenico Spano, of New Milford, Conn., also were indicted.

An involuntary manslaughter conviction carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and $1,000 fine. The term could be five years or less for someone with no prior convictions.

Fleury and the club also were indicted on four counts each of furnishing a machine gun to a minor. A conviction on each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines and the loss of a firearms license for at least 10 years.

Bennett said prosecutors know of at least four children, including Christopher, who fired automatic weapons at the fair. He added that Fleury had wrongly assured Guiffre and Spano that it was legal for children to use the Uzi under Massachusetts law.

"A Micro Uzi is made by and for the Israeli Armed Forces and is intended to meet the operational needs of Israeli Special Forces," Bennett said, noting that the weapon has a rate of fire of 20 to 25 rounds per second. "It is not a hunting weapon."

Thomas Drechsler, an attorney for the club, said it continues to extend its "deepest sympathy" to the Bizilj family, but denies any wrongdoing. He said neither the club nor any member gave the Uzi to Christopher or any children, and weren't in the immediate area when the accident happened.

"The club is disappointed by the indictment," he said. "The club's intention is to plead not guilty and the club denies they participated in any criminal act."

Fleury, Guiffre and Spano did not immediately return calls for comment.

The machine gun shoot drew hundreds of people to the sporting club's 375-acre compound. An advertisement said it would include machine gun demonstrations and rentals and free handgun lessons.

"It's all legal & fun — No permits or licenses required!!!!" reads the ad, posted on the club's Web site.

"You will be accompanied to the firing line with a Certified Instructor to guide you. But You Are In Control — "FULL AUTO ROCK & ROLL," the ad said.

The ad also said children under 16 would be admitted free, and both adults and children were offered free .22-caliber pistol and rifle shooting.

Christopher's father was 10 feet behind him and reaching for his camera when the child fired the weapon.

Bennett said Charles Bizilj (pronounced bah-SEAL') had selected the compact weapon for his 4-foot-3, 66-pound son to fire after he was assured it was safe. He had thought the Uzi's small size made it safer, but the opposite was true, the prosecutor said.

"Although it might appear a heavier or longer weapon would be more dangerous, the small size of the weapon together with the rapid rate of fire made it more likely that an 8-year-old would lose control and the muzzle of the weapon would come close to his face, which is what happened here," he said.

The father was not charged because he was a layman and based his decision on information from others who should have known it was too dangerous, Bennett said. The 15-year-old boy who was supervising Christopher with the Uzi also will not be charged, he added.

Christopher's family did not immediately return a call seeking comment. His father has said his son had experience firing handguns and rifles but the gun show was his first time with an automatic weapon.

Fleury, the police chief, has been on sick leave since the boy's death, according to Kim Leahey, administrative aide for the Pelham Board of Selectmen. Leahey said the board would have no statement on the indictment until it consults its attorneys.

Fleury is one of two full time officers in Pelham. In a statement issued shortly after the accident, the board said Fleury's company was a "purely personal pursuit" and not subject to their approval.

I will pray for the family.

I have shot an uzi, it does have a alot of lift...worse than a thompson. I have no idea if a 'micro' uzi is the same weapon or not. I know for sure that I would never let an 8-year-old fire even the original under normal circumstances.

I still recall the first time I fired a gun--my Father taught me all the rules, and took me out when I was 8. He had been an Army MP, and still had his service M1911 that was given to him when he retired. My target was one of those old, massive, white, iron stoves that was left in a gully.

The first shot knocked me on my ass against the opposite side of the gully. We both laughed. I knew what to expect with the second shot.

We lifted up the stove--damn near couldn't--to witness the damage the rounds had caused. That was the same day ( my birthday) that Dad gave me my first gun: a single shot Stevens 20ga shotgun. I won many a 'Turkey Shoot' with that 20ga shooting Trap. I still have it to this day.

I think that the Father and the 'certified instructor' were truely the culprits. Leave it to our idiot society to charge the wrong people.
Shooting the full sized Uzi was challenging for me. The "micro Uzi" was a lot more challenging. Both models have a mean "muzzle flip". If the boy really wanted to fire the gun, let him start off with a couple of rounds. Once he's comfortable, then he can fire a few more. In any case, the instructor should have been close enough to take control of the gun to prevent the muzzle from pointing in an "unsafe" direction.

Someone's gotta be accountable for what happened. I'm glad that they started the process, I'm sure there will be more people getting charged.

Here are my thoughts on this situation...

1) Yes this situation is very unfortunate and could have so EASILY been avoided had his father and the instructor taken better precaution and/or used better judgment

2) I feel the Chief should in no way be charged with a crime for supporting this event. If I was a LEO, I would have endorsed it as well. Yes, accidents do happen, however shooting events and shooting ranges are among the safest places to shoot in my opinion. Where I shoot, I feel TOTALLY safe following the direction of the range officers.

3) So now that there was ONE accident, everyone is up in arms to "BAN" them. Okay, that’s how you want to play...FINE. Ban cheerleading. Do you know how many people I have heard of getting seriously injured or KILLED because of cheerleading? Let’s BAN horseback riding as well. Don't give me the "this needs to be banned" BS when there are other aspects of sports that have FAR more fatalities and life threaten injuries.

4) I do feel very bad for this child and his family. They are in my prays.

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