U.S. News

Ex-police chief found not guilty in Mass. shooting case

SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Jurors reached an acquittal verdict on Friday in the trial of a former police chief in the accidental fatal shooting of an 8-year-old boy at an October 2008 event at Westfield Sportsman’s Club.

The shooting event had been organized and sponsored by former Pelham police chief Edward D. Fleury, who had been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The child, Christopher Bizilj, was killed instantly by a shot to his head while firing a 9mm micro Uzi submachine gun. The boy’s father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, had videotaped the accident and jurors viewed the tape. The father had also signed a liability waiver allowing Christopher and his older brother Colin, 11, to shoot.

Fleury’s defense attorney, Rosemary Curran Scapicchio, of Boston, had argued Fleury could not be held responsible for safety on the firing range. The small boy was not trained to handle such a lethal weapon and the powerful gun “kicked back” and fired into his head.

Prosecutors had said Fleury recklessly and illegally allowed minors to shoot machine guns. A conviction could have carried up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutor William M. Bennett had told jurors in closing arguments that the machine gun event was “a land mine waiting to explode.” Referring to the video, Bennett said, “You can understand why the law prohibits anyone from furnishing a machine gun to a child.”

The trial took place at Hampden Superior Court.

Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Jerry Norton