SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A teenager who supervised an 8-year-old who shot himself with an Uzi submachine gun at a 2008 gun fair testified Friday that he told the boy's father that "it wasn't a good idea" to let the child fire it.
Michael Spano was a witness on the fourth day of the trial of Edward Fleury, whose company co-sponsored the exhibition at the Westfield Sportsman's Club. Fleury has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the death of Christopher Bizilj of Ashford, Conn.
Spano said he offered the micro Uzi because Dr. Charles Bizilj wanted his two sons to shoot an automatic weapon and a regular Uzi the father had picked out was failing to fire in automatic mode.
"I told him it wasn't a good idea because it shoots fast and kicks hard," said Spano, who was 15 when the shooting occurred.
Christopher's brother Colin, then 11 years old, fired the micro Uzi first. Then Christopher came up to the firing line. Spano said he had one hand on Christopher and one on the gun.
"He was shooting fine, then something happened," Spano said. "I ran over to my father, and I told him the gun hit the kid in the face."
Spano's father, Domenico Spano of New Milford, Conn., and Carl Giuffre of Hartford, Conn., brought the machine guns to the gun fair and had machine gun licenses. Both have pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and await trial.
Also Friday, a female juror was dismissed after crying during a sidebar conference with the judge and lawyers. Fifteen jurors remain, including 12 who will deliberate the case and three alternates. Officials would not say why the juror was dismissed.
Testimony is to resume Monday.
On Thursday, jurors watched video of the shooting, taken by the boy's father. It showed the front of the Uzi kicking back toward Christopher's head and part of his skull appearing to fly off, a sight that prompted a collective gasp in the courtroom.
Prosecutors maintain that Fleury was responsible for illegally allowing the underage boy to fire a machine gun at an exhibition he had promoted as safe and legal.
Michael Spano, who didn't have a machine gun license and wasn't certified as a firearms instructor, testified that Fleury knew he was going to work on the firing line as a range officer the day of the shooting.
Fleury's lawyer, Rosemary Scapicchio, asked Spano: "You trusted Mr. Bizilj to make the best decisions for his own children, right?"
"Yes," Spano said.
Scapicchio has repeatedly argued that some of the responsibility for Christopher's death falls on his father. Prosecutors have said that Charles Bizilj was not charged because he based his decision to allow his sons to fire the gun on information from others who should have known it was too dangerous.
Bizilj testified Thursday he thought the event would be safe and well-supervised. When asked by prosecutor William Bennett if he had thought about safety, Bizilj said, "You can imagine this has gone through my head a thousand times."
Bizilj acknowledged under cross-examination that he signed a liability waiver before the shooting and told reporters shortly afterward he believed it was a tragic accident. Bizilj later filed a lawsuit for negligence against the Westfield Sportsman's Club, Fleury and two others. It was settled last month for about $700,000, but Fleury wasn't part of the settlement, Scapicchio said.
Michael Spano also said under cross-examination Friday that several police officers saw children shooting machine guns at the event and never told anyone to stop or that it was illegal.
Later Friday, the jury got its first glimpse of the Uzi that killed Christopher when state police Sgt. John Crane demonstrated how it works.
Crane also testified that, after watching the video, he believed the micro Uzi wasn't positioned the correct way on Christopher when the accident happened. He said the back portion of the gun that extends toward the shooter for stabilization was positioned unfirmly under Christopher's arm instead of firmly on his shoulder.
"It appeared to me that he was unsure where to place his hands, where to place the shoulder stock," Crane said. "When the gun fired, the gun rotated, allowing the barrel to come in contact with his head."
Scapicchio questioned Crane's expertise on micro Uzis and recoil. Crane said on cross-examination that he had never fired a micro Uzi before he shot the one Christopher used during his examination of the gun afterward.
Scapicchio has argued that state law doesn't prevent minors from shooting machine guns if they're accompanied by others with gun licenses.
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