Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Gun Range Death of Christopher Bizilj

A Fun Day at the Range

 

Edward Fleury
Edward Fleury

Edward Fleury had served as Chief of Police on the small town of Pelham, Mass., since 1991. By 2000, he also ran a side-business in firearms instruction creatively named COP (Chief of Police) Firearms. His most successful program was a yearly gun show called the "Machine Gun & Firearms Expo," also called "The Great New England Pumpkin Shoot," held at the Westfield Sportsman's Club, a shooting range Westfield, Mass. Since the gun show began in 2001, it had drawn thousands of people to live out the full promise of the 2nd Amendment: a chance to fire fully automatic machine guns at pumpkins and other fun targets. Fleury printed flyers which were posted on the websites of his business and the club. The flyer fairly screamed: "No age limit or licenses required to shoot machine guns... It's all legal and fun."

Adults paid a $5 admission fee, and children under 16 were admitted free, if accompanied by an adult. Once inside the club, attendees signed a waiver attesting they were familiar with guns and gun safety, and then they were free to walk around and watch people shoot, buy snacks or merchandise, and so on. Attendees wanting to shoot machine guns would walk into the club's garage where they could scan a pricelist of assorted guns and ammunition and then rent the weapons of their choice. They would pay for the gun and ammunition in the garage and receive a voucher that noted their purchase. Then they would walk about 100 yards to the actual shooting range and stand in line for their turn to fire. When they reached the front of the line, they would hand the voucher to a line officer, an instructor, who would grab the chosen gun and ammunition from a table, load the weapon, instruct the attendee on its proper use, ensure the attendee had proper ear and eye protection and then stand next to the attendee on the firing line. The targets downrange included pumpkins and trucks.

2008 Promotional flyer for the Westfield Sportsman's Club machine gun shoot
2008 Promotional flyer for the Westfield Sportsman's Club machine gun shoot

Chief Fleury possessed one of Massachusetts' hard-to-come-by machine gun permits, issued only to certified machine gun instructors and federally-recognized "bona fide collectors." But he didn't have the guns. Instead, Fleury contracted with two Connecticut men, Domenico Spano and Carl Giuffre, to bring the guns and ammunition for the shoot. Spano and Giuffre brought a wide array of weapons, including belt-fed machine guns, submachine guns and battle rifles to the event for the use of attendees. The preparation of and instruction in the use of machine guns were the responsibility of Spano and Giuffre. Fleury had no role in the actual handling of weapons at the Machine Gun Shoot.

Fleury always made a point to contact the Westfield Police Department to let them know about the machine gun shoot ahead of time — in fact, the show was attended by several off-duty members of area law enforcement.

 

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