A Massachusetts doctor closed his eyes today when a court played a video that he filmed of his 8-year-old son shooting a powerful Uzi submachine gun that recoiled and shot the boy in the head, killing him.
The mother of 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj left the room in tears.
The 2008 tragedy occurred in Massachusetts when Christopher was handed a 9mm Micro Uzi submachine gun to fire during a gun expo he attended with his family. Former Pelham police chief Edward Fleury, who organized the event, is on trial for involuntary manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.
The nightmarish scene had been videotaped by the boy's father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, of Ashford, Conn., who was on the stand when the video was played. He closed his eyes as the video as shown.
People in the courtroom gasped as the shots rang out, clearly showing the moment when the boy starts to fire, but is unable to handle the gun's strong recoil. The automatic weapon keeps firing as the gun barrel rears up and shoots Christopher in the right side of the head.
The father testified earlier that he was videotaping his son firing the gun when the boy disappeared from the viewfinder.
Bizilj said he then saw Christopher on the ground and ran to him. He said his son's eyes were open, but he did not respond. When he reached to pick him up, Bizilj said he saw part of the boy's skull was missing.
"That gun was just too much for that 8-year-old boy," said a woman who was present the day of the shooting but asked not to be identified. Her husband is a member of the Westfield Sportsman's Club, which hosted the event, and he was nearby when the tragedy occurred.
"It's just a terrible, terrible accident that didn't have to happen if someone had used some common sense," she said.
Video was also shown of Christopher's 11-year-old brother Colin firing the gun before it was handed to him. Other children were also firing automatic weapons at the expo.
Gary Hobaica, a friend of the victim's father, testified in the morning. He said the father, Charles Bizilj, selected the machine guns and ammunition for his children to fire. The group had been viewing people shoot machine guns for several hours and it appeared safe, Hobaica said.
Fleury's attorney, Rosemary Curran Scapicchio, told ABCNews.com that it was a difficult day in court, describing the court room as packed and very tense.
"You're always going to be distraught when you have to look at that video," she said. "You can't help but feel sadness for the family and for the poor boy when you watch it. I think that the video that was unnecessary and inflammatory."
Scapicchio maintains, however, that the former police chief did nothing illegal and should not be held responsible. She pointed out that Christopher's father and dozens of event volunteers had multiple opportunities to intervene and did nothing.
Boston University law professor David Rossman said the emotional impact of visual evidence during a trial could be very powerful.
"This little kid gets killed in the horrendous way that he does, we want to blame someone," he said, adding that jurors often feel compelled to seek justice after seeing graphic images. "The film just makes it all the more real."
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has been following the case and was astonished that the father filmed the incident in the first place.
"Why would you endanger your flesh and blood this way? Is this something cool you want to show the kid later on?" he asked, adding that viewing the video must have been horrific. "This isn't like movies and TV."
Helmke said there are about 600 unintentional gun deaths in the U.S. each year.
Also awaiting trail on involuntary manslaughter charges are Carl Giuffre of Hartford and Domenico Spano of New Milford who supplied the guns. They have pleaded not guilty.