SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A police chief whose company sponsored a gun fair and two other men have been indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of an 8-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself in the head with an Uzi at the gun fair.
The Westfield Sportsman's Club also faces the manslaughter charge in the death of Christopher Bizilj of Ashford, Conn., who lost control of the 9mm micro submachine gun as it recoiled while he was firing at a pumpkin.
The boy's father was 10 feet behind him and reaching for his camera when the child fired the weapon.
Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury owns the COP Firearms & Training, which sponsored the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo last month at the Westfield Sportsman's Club.
Two other men, Carl Guiffre of Hartford, Conn., and Domenico Spano, of New Milford, Conn., also were indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges. They brought the automatic weapon to the show, after assurances from Fleury that it was legal under Massachusetts law, District Attorney William Bennett said.
"A Micro Uzi is made by and for the Israeli Armed Forces and is intended to meet the operational needs of Israeli Special Forces," Bennett said, noting the weapon has a rate of fire of 1,700 round per minute. "It is not a hunting weapon."
Fleury and the club also were indicted on four counts each of furnishing a machine gun to a minor. Bennett said prosecutors know of at least four children, including Christopher, who fired the automatic weapons. The club faces a fine of up to $10,000 for each violation.
Fleury, Guiffre and Spano did not immediately return calls for comment. A man who answered the phone at the club said he was a member; he refused to identify himself and said no one wanted to talk.
The machine gun shoot drew hundreds of people to the sporting club's 375-acre compound. An advertisement said it would include machine gun demonstrations and rentals and free handgun lessons.
"It's all legal & fun — No permits or licenses required!!!!" reads the ad, posted on the club's Web site.
"You will be accompanied to the firing line with a Certified Instructor to guide you. But You Are In Control — 'FULL AUTO ROCK & ROLL,'" the ad said.
However, Bennett said Christopher was with a 15-year-old who was familiar with guns — not a certified instructor — when he was shot. That boy will not be charged, Bennett said.
The ad also said children under 16 would be admitted free, and both adults and children were offered free .22-caliber pistol and rifle shooting.
Bennett said Christopher's father, Charles Bizilj, selected the compact weapon for his 4-foot-3, 66-pound son to fire after he was assured it was safe. The father was not charged because he was a layman and based his decision on information from others who should have known it was too dangerous, Bennett said.
Bizilj has said his son had experience firing handguns and rifles but the gun show was his first time with an automatic weapon.
The family did not immediately return a call for comment.
"Although it might appear a heavier or longer weapon would be more dangerous, the small size of the weapon together with the rapid rate of fire made it more likely that an 8 year old would lose control and the muzzle of the weapon would come close to his face, which is what happened here," he said.
Fleury has been on sick leave since the accident, according to Kim Leahey, administrative aide for the Pelham Board of Selectmen.
Leahey said the board would have no statement on the indictment until it consults its attorneys.
Fleury is one of two full time officers in Pelham. In a statement issued shortly after the accident, the board said Fluery's company was a "purely personal pursuit" and not subject to their approval.