Local prosecutor shot 20 years ago says Ohio judge will never be the same

In December of 1996, a man walked right inside Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains' home and shot him in the arm and side

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains recalls being shot in 1996


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN/WBNS) – Cases like the judge who was shot in Steubenville bring back a lot of memories for people in the Mahoning Valley of the assassination attempt on a local prosecutor.

According to officials, Nathaniel Richmond waited to ambush Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese, Jr. on Monday.

The suspect, who happens to be the biological father of Youngstown State football player and convicted rapist Ma’lik Richmond, died from his injuries after a probation officer returned fire.

Just over 20 years ago, a similar experience happened to newly-elected Prosecutor Paul Gains when someone shot him.

“That judge will never be the same,” Gains said on Monday. “He’ll always be wondering.”

The night someone tried to take his life is still fresh in his memory.

“When somebody attempts to assassinate you, it’s personal and it’s different than combat. Combat’s not personal but this is personal,” he said.

In December of 1996, a man walked right inside Gains’ home and shot him in the arm and side. Then the gun jammed.

Gains recovered and eventually, the gunman went to prison but Gains said an attack like that changes you forever.

“It let me know that I was mortal and, of course, I take precautions now that I wouldn’t have otherwise taken.”

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said Judge Bruzzese was taking precautions at his suggestion.

“I urged him years ago to carry a gun. If you’re sitting on a bench, you have to carry a gun because there’s so many nut cases out there that want retaliation.”

Abdalla said that made all the difference when it came to saving Bruzzese’s life on Monday.

The Associated Press reports that Bruzzese managed to fire back before the probation officer stepped in.

“Every judge should be armed. Today, in America? Every judge, every prosecutor should be armed. It’s a crazy world,” Abdalla said.

Gains agrees but said knowing how to use that gun is just as important.

“The concealed carry permit only requires you to qualify once but they should practice, and practice, and practice and apparently, this judge did.”

“If any judge could do it, he could,” Abdalla said. “He’s an avid sportsman, a hunter. He loves guns.”

Gains said he’s thankful to hear Judge Bruzzese will likely be okay but that it’ll be a long road to recovery.

“Just to learn how to deal with it because he will suffer from PTSD because it’s personal.”

Bruzzese is 65 years old. He was out of surgery and doing well Monday night.

He is one of two judges serving in the Jefferson County Common Pleas Court — which he has served on since 1997 — and hears general and domestic relations cases.

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