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STEUBENVILLE (KDKA/AP) – An assassination attempt on an Ohio judge left the suspected shooter dead Monday.
The judge was shot as he was walking toward the courthouse in Steubenville. The suspected shooter was killed by return fire, and second man is in custody being questioned by police.
Law enforcement officials tell KDKA this assassination attempt on Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese, 66, was thwarted. Authorities say the judge himself fired back as he was being shot.
It was a typical Monday for Bruzzese, walking into work at the Jefferson County Courthouse. Police say as he was walking in the alley next to the courthouse, Nathaniel Richmond, a 51-year-old convicted felon, known on the street as “Snake,” was waiting to kill him.
Police said the quick actions of the judge and a probation officer returning fire at Richmond stopped him in his tracks.
“If it wasn’t for the probation officer, this gentleman would have kept on shooting till he killed the judge,” Jefferson County, Ohio, Sheriff Fred Abdalla said. “It’s a sad day in America when you have a judge shot in front of his courthouse.”
County commissioners shut down the courthouse immediately as detectives gathered evidence. The crime scene was taped off for hours, near the entrance the courthouse in Downtown Steubenville and the nearby alleyway.
“It’s all on video because it’s all on the secure video on the outside of the courthouse, so everything’s on tape,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Dr. Thomas Graham.
The judge was shot and underwent surgery at a Pittsburgh hospital. He is stable and expected to make a full recovery.
KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti Report —
It’s unclear if the man being questioned by police knew about the plan to assassinate the judge. That man has not been identified.
“We’ve asked for the FBI to come in for possible prosecution on the other suspect if there is any. Or just to look at this as a transparency,” said James Mavromatis, Steubenville City Manager.
The big question left is, why did this happen? Officials don’t know the answer to that right now.
Officials said Richmond was lying in wait to ambush the judge.
According to the county prosecutor, he has had several criminal cases before Judge Bruzzese and other judges in the past and is a party to a civil suit currently pending the judge’s court room.
According to the Associated Press, Richmond was the father of Ma’lik Richmond, a Steubenville High School football player who was convicted of rape in 2012.
Investigators said they did not believe there was any connection between the much-publicized rape case and the attempted murder of the judge. They said the judge had nothing to do with the rape case; however, the older Richmond had appeared in judge’s courtroom a number of times, and had a wrongful death lawsuit pending against the County in the judge’s courtroom.
“There have been a number of cases throughout the past number of years in this judge’s courtroom and other courtrooms, whether or not there’s a connection between any of those prior appearances in that courtroom or others, we don’t know the answer to that yet,” Jefferson County prosecutor Jane Hanlin told a late Monday afternoon press conference.
Hours after the Steubenville shooting, the Chief Justice of the Ohio state Supreme Court urged all court employees, including judges, to take extra precautions in personal and professional activities.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)