SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A police chief in western Massachusetts pleaded not guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of an 8-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself with an Uzi at a gun show.
Pelham Chief Edward Fleury owns COPS Firearms & Training, which promoted the October show where Christopher Bizilj shot himself in the head.
Fleury's lawyer, David Kuzmeski, also entered not guilty pleas on Fleury's behalf to four counts of furnishing a machine gun to a person under 18. Fleury did not appear at the arraignment in Hampden Superior Court.
Fleury could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter and up to 10 years if convicted of furnishing the weapon to a minor.
"We're very disappointed that he's been indicted," Kuzmeski said after the arraignment. "We're optimistic with our defenses. Of course, everybody is just feeling terrible about this accident. Mr. Fleury's sympathies go out to the family."
The boy, from Ashford, Conn., was killed Oct. 26 when he lost control of the 9mm micro submachine gun as it recoiled while he was firing at a pumpkin at the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo. Christopher's father was 10 feet behind him and reaching for his camera when the child fired the weapon.
Pelham has appointed an acting police chief while Fleury remains on sick leave until Jan. 6.
District Attorney William Bennett has said Fleury wrongly assured two men who brought the weapon to Westfield Sportsman's Club that it was legal for children to use under Massachusetts law.
Carl Giuffre of Hartford, Conn., and Domenico Spano of New Milford, Conn., were charged with involuntary manslaughter and pleaded not guilty last week.
The club, where the gun show was held, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter Monday.
"We maintain our position that no one acting on behalf of the club furnished any weapon to the people in question," said Thomas Drechsler, the club's attorney. "There was no reckless, wanton conduct on the part of the club."