On Monday morning, Judge Joseph Bruzzese was ambushed with gunfire outside the Jefferson County Courthouse. The judge is out of surgery at UPMC Pittsburgh and “doing fine,” says City Manager Jim Mavromatis. The shooter was shot and killed by a probation officer who just happened to be in the area and heard the exchange of gunfire. That’s right, exchange of gunfire: the good Judge was packing heat. Sheriff Fred Abdalla spoke with reporters to update the community on the situation.
The shooter exchanged gunfire with Bruzzese near the Court Street entrance to the courthouse, Abdalla said, and was shot and killed by a common pleas court probation officer who was walking in Dollar Alley between buildings from Fourth Street to Court Street when the shooter turned on him.
“Whoever thought this could happen here,” Abdalla said. He noted local authorities are familiar with the suspect.
He said the shooter and Bruzzese appeared to have exchanged about five shots each, according to courthouse video.
He said officers are checking court records to see what involvement the suspect had with Bruzzese.
Abdalla said he is aware there are threats of retaliation for killing the attacker. The suspected (dead) attacker seems like a nice guy if we can judge him by his retaliatory friends.
I’m a big fan of this sheriff — he has the right attitude about keeping a self-defense posture.
During the press conference Abdalla became emotional and said, “The judge was shot in front of the courthouse and it effects me. It is an attempted murder on a judge.”
Later he said, “Every judge should be armed today in America. Prosecutors need to be armed. It was a cold-blooded attempted murder on a judge.”
Regarding the judge, who is an avid sportsman, the sheriff remarked, “If any judge could do it [use a firearm defensively], it is him. There are so many nuts running around seeking retaliation.” And thankfully the probation officer was near the incident. “If the probation officer was not there, the shooter would have kept shooting until the judge was dead,” Abdalla said.
Bruzzese has been an attorney since 1976, when he graduated from Ohio Northern University. He was the county court judge at Wintersville for many years before being elected to replace longtime common pleas judge Domenick Olivito in 1995. Bruzzese won re-election to his latest term in 2014.
Get well soon, Judge Bruzzese. Keep on shooting back.