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Ohio judge returns fire after being shot by father of convicted Steubenville High School rapist

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The man who shot and wounded a judge outside a county courthouse before being gunned down by a probation officer was the father of a Steubenville High School football player who was convicted of rape in 2013, authorities said Monday.

Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. was shot about 8 a.m. near the courthouse in Steubenville, just across the Ohio River from West Virginia’s northern panhandle, about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh.

Authorities identified the gunman as 51-year-old Nathaniel “Nate” Richmond, the father of Ma’Lik Richmond. Ma’Lik, then 17, served about 10 months in a juvenile lockup after being convicted with another Steubenville football player of raping a 16-year-old girl during an alcohol-fueled party in 2012.

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The case brought international attention to the eastern Ohio city of 18,000 people and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the football team.

Investigators are still looking for a motive in the shooting and haven’t found a connection to the rape case, said Jefferson County prosecutor Jane Hanlin.

A visiting judge from Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, handled the vast majority of the rape case.

Courthouse video on Monday shows both the judge and Nathaniel Richmond firing about five times each, said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.

Nathaniel Richmond, father of Ma'Lik Richmond, in 2013.
(Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

“Whoever thought this could happen here?” Abdalla said.

Bruzzese, 65, was talking after being wounded, Steubenville City Manager James Mavromatis told WTOV-TV. The judge was flown to a Pittsburgh-area hospital.

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Republican Gov. John Kasich said he was told Bruzzese would survive.

The attack had to be intentional because people know about the reserved spots where judges park, said one of Bruzzese’s judicial colleagues.

Judge Joseph Corabi said he and the county’s two other judges park in reserved spots next to the courthouse. Judges then walk a few feet down what’s known as Courthouse Alley to a side entrance to the building, said Corabi, the Jefferson County juvenile and probate court judge.

“Everybody knows who parks there. That’s why it’s not an accident what happened. He was clearly an intended target,” Corabi said.

Ma’Lik Richmond, now 21, is currently on the Youngstown State University football team but isn’t allowed to play in any games, the school said this month.

News of his participation drew a wave of criticism in the university community recently, and a petition was started to keep him from playing for the Penguins.

Corabi said Bruzzese is known as an avid hunter. He called him fair, hardworking, well-liked and “a tough son of a gun.”

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“He is very intelligent and he can cut to the chase,” Corabi said. “He spots issues and he resolves the issues.”

Bruzzese hears general and domestic relations cases as one of two judges serving in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.

Bruzzese has served on that court since 1997, according to Ohio Supreme Court records. He was most recently reelected in 2014 for another six-year term.

Bruzzese had likely arrived early to review his usual Monday morning batch of legal motions, Corabi said.

Local media reported that the suspect’s body could be seen lying next to a car at the drive-through of a neighboring bank. Police said a man who was in the car with him was taken into custody.

The courthouse was closed for the day as local and state authorities helped secure the scene. Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham told WTOV that some courthouse workers witnessed the “tragic situation” and that people would need time to process what had happened.

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The state crime lab will help investigate the shooting, said Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine.

The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court called the attack a “cowardly ambush” and urged court personnel — especially judges — to take extra precautions.

The attack “reminds us all of the very real potential for violence against judges,” Maureen O’Connor said. “Violence against judges represents an attack on the rule of law, the foundation of our country.”

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