There are now formal criminal charges in the death of 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj of Ashford, Connecticut. Christopher shot himself in the head while firing an Uzi submachine gun at a gun fair. Now charged are Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury owns the COP Firearms & Training, which sponsored the gun show last month. Also charged were the Westfield Sportsman’s Club and two other men for involuntary manslaughter charges.
The accident occurred when the Uzi it recoiled while the boy was firing at a pumpkin.
The Club had advertised the event as: “It’s all legal & fun — No permits or licenses required!!!! You will be accompanied to the firing line with a Certified Instructor to guide you. But You Are In Control — ‘FULL AUTO ROCK & ROLL.'”
For the family, criminal charges may be all of the relief that they can expect since the father Charles Bizilj participated in the event and was himself contributorily negligent. It is still possible, however, that a civil lawsuit could succeed, particularly by the mother.
For the full story, click here.
17 thoughts on “Police Chief and Club Indicted with Others in Gun Show Death of Eight-Year-Old”
There was a verdict in part of this case a few minutes ago:
Thanks for the update. While the people who ran this outing and allowed an 8 year old to shoot an UZI, are definitely liable for tort damages. The ultimate stupidity was the child’s parents who believed that UZI shooting at 8 would add to his education. I’m not being anti-gun and I know that there are appropriate weapons for children to handle if that is the parent’s inclination. An UZI does not fall into that category. Damn, I’m a city boy and I even had a Daisy BB gun at age 8 and loved shooting it.
Christopher Bizilj’s Family Files Suit: Family Blames Teen For 8-Year-Old’s Uzi Death At Gun Show
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The family of an 8-year-old boy who fatally shot himself at a gun show in western Massachusetts say the Uzi submachine gun jammed twice before he lost control of the weapon and fired into his head.
The family of Christopher Bizilj (bah-SEEL’) of Ashford, Conn., says in a civil lawsuit filed Friday that a 15-year-old instructor who cleared the gun and handed it back to the victim failed to provide proper guidance.
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Thanks for your earlier comment regarding the negligence question.
Mike Spindell said “Certainly, there was gross negligence, but are the people who ran the event punishable by jail time?”
If someone gets killed as a result of your gross negligence (or recklessness or criminal negligence) then yes, it is most certainly punishable by jail time. It is called involuntary manslaughter.
Some may think I am out of touch with the mainstream on this, but I have a feeling that a jury would not be terribly sympathetic toward someone who put a fully automatic Uzi in the hands of an eight year old child.
Usually, the more tragic the crime, the MORE likely it is that the offender will get convicted, not less. Go figure.
Is there legal precedence for “contributory negligence” and therefore the father could *not* file a legitimate civil suit himself, but he would receive the benefits of the monetary settlement from his wife’s suit? Alternatively, is such negligence a legal opinion and not an established legal precedent?
I am not condemning the father personally, but I am trying to understand the principle of the law in this instance. Ultimately, it is up to the DA to decide the possible consequences of any life, death, incarceration, or monetary rewards and such decisions are rendered differently throughout different jurisdictions everyday while fairness and equality of justice/punishment are often not part of the legal equation.
As a father, I can empathize with the tragedy; however, I would have considered myself the most *legally* culpable party in the death of my son in this instance, and my *moral* guilt and failure to protect my son’s life while I was actively present would have been unbearable. However, with over 50 years of gun ownership, I would have never allowed my son to have even dry-fired an Uzi. Any parent has an obligation to research any potentially dangerous situation in which they knowingly allow their underage child’s willing participation.
Emphatically, anytime there are numerous firearms involved and especially with young children present, that is a definitive definition of a potentially dangerous situation. Throughout many years of my professional law enforcement firearms training, safety was stressed repeatedly, although many of us were seasoned officers, often qualified as Expert Marksmen, and had never had any safety-related mishaps.
Therefore, anyone handling firearms and those present as bystanders, regardless of experience—and especially if inexperienced—must consider the potential for a dangerous outcome and observe all of the numerous and important firearm safety rules. Everyone, layman and “experts” alike, involved with the “gun fair” failed to observe the most basic commonsense safety provisions, with tragic results.
Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, Kung-fu, etc. are often taught to children with parental consent. It is generally a positive influence both for the individual and society.
Guns – their usage and safety are a martial art in essence even if your application is hunting. A martial art I largely disapprove of for reasons I won’t go into here, but one nonetheless.
Both types of arts martial are potentially lethal.
If at a demonstration, something goes wrong and a child is killed, who is more culpable? The parent who in good faith signed his child up to learn protection skills or the person running the demonstration (ostensibly an expert)?
No, despite the parent’s role in this, I don’t think going after them is appropriate. The Sheriff and other organizers, sure. You bet. Nail them to the wall. Because they were the experts in control of the demonstration. No non-psychotic parent sends a child deliberately into a situation to die. I guarantee this wasn’t what they thought they’d be doing that day. Besides, no prison equals the torment they will live with for the rest of their lives. It would just restrict their movement. They ARE being punished.
The real question that should be asked is which genius was in charge of weapon selection? As a gun man, you should know that there are better weapons to choose from for demonstrating fully automatic weapons than an Uzi – especially for children. It’s too light and has such a high RoF that it can be hard for a seasoned gun user to control first time out. And it’s a sub-machine gun. Almost a machine pistol. I really doubt it had a stock added to it. Any fully automatic rifle with a stock would have been easier to control when firing and just as effective a demonstration. No, there were adults at fault here. As much as I dislike the idea of parents weapons training children and disapprove of their part in this as much as you do, I have to lay the blame just where it seems to be falling – squarely on the organizers.
Thank you for the link. Mainly because I am a gun owner who supports strong enforcement of the gun law already on the books, I am glad the DA has done his job. However, I disagree with not charging the father, who selected the gun and signed a waiver for his son to use the UZI.
We all know why the DA did not charge the father. A jury always falls for the sympathy defense, would not convict the dad, and would jeopardize the case against the other defendants. What the DA stated in the article is correct from a humanistic viewpoint, but I disagree with discounting the dad’s legal culpability:
DA Bennett said, “The father will be punished every day of the rest of his life.”
However, any conviction without the father as a defendant might be a lesson to others and prevent another similar tragedy.
FFLEO, there are four involuntary manslaughter indictments and four furnishing a machine gun to a minor indictments pending…
The DA chose not the charge the father, in part because he relied on the representations of the ‘expert’ group of sponsors, including the local police chief, who have run this event for six years.
Correction JT: Boy’s father’s name is Charles Bizilj
(photo is of another father/son team at the shoot)
From my nonprofessional’s legal opinion, there is an equal debt owed to society from which the criminal penalties stem. An unjustifiable death of another human being occurred through criminal negligence.
I view the situation this way:
If a person with an Uzi at the shooting venue *said* that he accidentally lost control of the weapon and killed a young child or an adult–although the father of the child or a relative of the adult forgave the shooter and did not sue–the government would still have an obligation to criminally charge the shooter, based on the evidence.
We need an attorney’s explanation.
A tragedy that chills the heart of any parent and certainly fills me with anger for the stupidity. However, am I off base in thinking this is not really a criminal matter? Certainly, there was gross negligence, but are the people who ran the event punishable by jail time? Would that prove anything and does anyone really think that anything will be gained by it? Certainly too, the Father is as personally culpable as the organizers. His punishment is to have to live with this, his wife’s/childrens feelings, for the rest of his life.
My point is that this seems to me to be a case where a torts case, leading to bankrupting damages for the defendants and firing of the Police Chief, would represent more effective justice. However, I’m not sure that I’m correct in this and could easily be convinced otherwise.
Typically the proceeds of any suit brought on behalf of the child’s estate would go to his heirs at law under some statutory scheme for wrongful death recovery. In some states and since the child probably died intestate, both parents would take along with siblings under most intestate succession statutes, or there may be classifications of beneficiaries under the state’s wrongful death statute. However most states do include the parents as beneficiaries of the first class under wrongful death. There are so-called “slayer statutes” in some states which deny recovery to actors who intentionally or recklessly cause the death of the decedent, but I am not aware of such a prohibition against one who merely acts negligently as the father arguably did here. Personally, I would not preclude his recovery since I am sure that no one on the blog would contend that he has not suffered along with the mother in this tragedy.
Dr. Bizilj might be a “layman” but he is the director of emergency medicine at a nearby hospital Although Stafford Springs, CT, is not a high crime area, he should have some knowledge of the mayhem guns can inflict on a human body.
I agree with most of what you say, except any rule to keep 8 year old’s with a stupid parent from shooting an Uzi will be considered gun control. If that what it takes to make sure no other family has to go through that horror, I am all for it.
I sympathize with Christopher’s mother; however, the negligent father in no way should benefit monetarily from a civil lawsuit. He was ultimately responsible for his son’s presence at the event, he was in close proximity to his son, and he knew the type of firearm scheduled for his son’s use. I am surprised that Mr. Bizilj, “layman” or not, was in no way found criminally culpable for contributing to his son’s death.
This must not become an excuse for more gun control. Rather, this must be an issue of punishing *gun users* whose actions were criminally negligent.
The important result is that another family never has to experience such a tragic and needless loss of an 8-year-old child from the use of a dangerous weapon never intended for recreational use.
Such a sad and amazing case. How is earth could anyone allow an 8 year old child to shoot a gun like that. I don’t care who is supervising. Too much firepower and way too dangerous.
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