Even as last week’s Tucson shootings touched off another round of national hand-wringing over gun control, a jury in Springfield, Mass., found the organizer of a gun show blameless in the death of a boy killed by an Uzi he was firing.
“I want to thank God for giving me my life back,” said Edward Fleury, 53, speaking to the media after the verdict was announced. He said he would have no further involvement in gun shows, and that he wanted to devote the rest of his life to doing good.
On October 26, 2008, Fleury was the owner of a company that organized a gun fair, advertised as a children’s event, sponsored by the Westfield Sportsmen’s Club. Among the weapons available for children to fire were the Micro Uzi, an Israeli-made machine gun.
Dr. Charles Bizilj, then of Ashford, Conn., brought his two boys, then 8 and 11, to the show. He signed a waiver of liability, and filmed his 8-year-old son, Christopher, firing the Uzi. The boy was assisted by a 15-year-old boy who did not have a machine gun license and was not a certified instructor.
Christopher lost control of the weapon, and was killed by a shot to the head.
Former Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett, the special prosecutor in this case, chose not to prosecute the father, saying he had suffered enough. He did file charges of involuntary manslaughter, and three counts of providing machine guns to minors against Fleury, a police chief in the area who resigned his post after the incident.
Neither of the parents, now divorced, have commented on this week’s verdict. Dr. Bizilj had testified at the trial, but was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read. Christopher’s mother, Suzanne, was present along with friends and relatives, but left the court without comment.
Last March, the Westfield Sportsmen’s Club agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and make $10,000 in donations to children’s charities to avoid facing criminal charges.
In a statement issued following last year’s agreement with the Westfield Sportsmen’s Club, Suzanne Bizilj said “The emotional trauma of Christopher’s death haunts me every day. 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.”
Charges have also been filed against two men from Connecticut, who brought the weapons to the fair. They are being charged with involuntary manslaughter, but not with providing the weapons. Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni told the Boston Globe that he is conferring with his staff to decide whether or not to pursue their prosecution.