The man who opened fire on Jefferson County, Ohio Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. was identified as the father of a then-17-year-old who was convicted of rape four years ago, according to the Toledo Blade and other news outlets.
Nathaniel Richmond, 51, was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire with the armed judge and a probation officer Monday morning as Bruzzese was walking to the courthouse in Steubenville. His son, Ma’Lik Richmond, reportedly served 10 months at a juvenile facility. Now 21, he is on the Youngstown State football team but is not allowed to play. A petition was circulated in the university community to prevent him from playing, the newspaper said.
Published reports say the judge and his would-be assassin each fired five rounds. The incident was apparently caught on security cameras.
Bruzzese was reportedly overseeing a lawsuit the elder Richardson had filed against the Jefferson County Metropolitan Housing Authority, according to the New York Daily News. The Chicago Tribune reported that a hearing on a motion to dismiss punitive claims in the case was scheduled for next Monday, Aug. 28. Court records show Richmond had some past traffic violations and he had been arrested on domestic violence and assault charges several years ago, the Tribune noted.
Judge Bruzzese, described by a colleague as an avid hunter, was flown to Pittsburgh where he underwent surgery Monday. Reports say he is expected to survive.
The incident reveals that Judge Bruzzese is among members of the bench who are armed. This has been common knowledge in the firearms community, and one company even developed a revolver that fires .45 Colt and/or .410 shotgun shells called “The Judge.” The gun carried by Judge Bruzzese has not been identified.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla told reporters that, “Every judge should be armed today in America. Prosecutors need to be armed. It was a cold-blooded attempted murder on a judge.”
According to the Steubenville Herald-Star, the FBI joined the investigation, along with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Ohio State Patrol. Steubenville police and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department are handling the investigation.
Bruzzese, 65, was not involved in the earlier rape case against the younger Richardson. However, others have suggested that the shooting was an ambush, and that Bruzzese was the target. Apparently the gunman didn’t expect return fire.