Chenango County, New York: once the territory of the Oneida people, one of the first Five Nations of the Iroquois. Birthplace of Nancy Matthews Elliott (b. 1810), the mother of Thomas Edison; and birthplace of Allen Cook, the architect of Folsom State Prison, (b. 1832)
When you enter into Chenango on your way up to Syracuse, you know that in less than an hour and a half you will be opening the door to PASTABILITIES on Franklin Street and that blast of warm Sicilian-sauce-scented air will be rushing out into a 10 degrees Fahrenheit wall of icy Syracusean air! (Vegan Wicky-Wicky Meatball Riggies, anybody?).
But this is not a case about comfort food on a freezing day. This is a case about road rage.
Back to Chenango. Specifically, to a little gym on the side of the road in Bainbridge, a small town. Two vehicles pull into the parking lot in tandem. The occupants of the cars get out. Gunshots are fired. Two men are on the ground. The shooter gets back into his vehicle and pulls out of the gravel parking lot leaving the dust to settle on the bleeding bodies of the injured men and the windshield of their car. It was the afternoon, but there was only silence in the surrounding woods, and the road empty. It was October. The shooter was soon arrested and charged. This is his trial.
- John Guzy, 57, former NYPD and Chenango County Corrections Officer
- Derek Prindle, 26
- Derek Sr., 61 (his dad)
They are contractors by trade.
Testimony of Prindle, Sr:
Q: Please tell the Judge what happened before the shooting?
A: Guzy pulled in front of us blocking our car, an SUV. My boy…my son…was driving on the two-lane highway about 51 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone. Guzy came up behind us and was following very closely. Then he came around and pulled beside us for a moment and then pulled in front of us and slammed on his brakes. He paused a few seconds and he again slammed on his brakes, blocking both lanes.
Q: Did you do anything?
A: I motioned for Guzy to pull into an adjacent parking lot to see who was driving and what was going on. He pulled into the parking lot, and we followed him.
Q: What happened after the two cars were in the lot?
A: Guzy appeared to be very angry, you know, very irate. He got out of his vehicle and approached the us yelling, “Have you got a f. . . . . . problem?” When Guzy was about six inches from my side of the SUV, he said, “I’ll kill you both . . . because you’re a f. . . . . . a**hole.”
Q: What happened next?
A: Guzy then spit in my face. So I stepped out of the SUV, and Guzy shot me in the chest. I saw my son get out and he ran over and tried to restrain Guzy by pinning him to the SUV. Guzy shot my son twice — once in the chest and once in his stomach. Then I tried to grab Guzy’s arm and I kicked him in the groin.
Q: So what did Guzy do then?
A: He ran back to his car and took off. My son was dead. He wasn’t breathing anymore. My son … was a warm soul, and he’s dearly missed.
Testimony of John Guzy:
Q: Why did you pull into the parking lot?
A: As I was passing them, the father repeatedly gave me the middle finger. I pulled into the lot to get away from them. But they followed me.
Q: And what happened next?
A: The guys both got out and the father said, “Let’s kick his ass.” They approached me and began punching me in the face and head. I fought back and spit in the father’s face when the father kicked me. I hit the son in the head a few times and told them to get the f. . . away.
Q: Did you pull out your gun?
A: I intended to stop them with the gun, but did not intend to kill anyone.
Q: Stop them from doing what?
A: I was afraid they would take my gun and shoot me with it…So I shot them. I fired the gun at the son twice, and three times at the father. I was getting very scared for my life. It was self-defense. When I left the scene, I drove to a nearby State Police barracks and reported the shooting.
Cross-examination of Guzy:
Q: Mr. Guzy, neither of those old boys had a gun, did they?
A: No, sir.
Q: And after you shot them, you fled the scene?
A: Yes. I got scared.
Q: Indeed. So scared that you threw the gun out the window?
A: I did. Not proud of that, but I did.
Q: And that was so you could hide the gun from the authorities?
A: Well, the permit for that gun had expired.
Q: In fact, authorities also located several other unauthorized firearms in your home?
A: Yes, they did.
Q: By the way, you never identified yourself as a retired police officer or indicated that you were carrying a weapon?
A: No, sir. I did not.
Q: And isn’t it a fact that you could have just left the scene BEFORE pulling out your gun?
A: I could have done that. But I didn’t know it was going to turn out like it did.
GUZY’S CLOSING STATEMENT:
Your Honor, Guzy believed that either the father or the son was using or about to use deadly physical force against him so as to justify his use of such force. Any reasonable person in his situation would have done the same thing. People have a right to defend themselves. It was two on one!
PROSECUTOR’S CLOSING STATEMENT:
You can’t let people start a fight, take a gun out and kill people. That’s not allowed!
RULING BY THE TRIAL JUDGE:
The testimony established that Guzy did not reasonably believe that either the father or the son was using or about to use deadly physical force against him so as to justify his use of such force. The father and the son were unarmed and Guzy had no reason to believe that they had any weapons. Further, Guzy provoked and escalated the encounter and was the initial aggressor and, indeed, he admitted at trial that he could have retreated before the shooting.
I find Guzy…GUILTY.
The Defendant is sentenced as follows:
25 years to life for murder; and 15 years for the attempted murder.
The convictions and sentences were upheld on appeal.
See you on the road, Jack!
Here is the case: