Brother: Judge asking to be released day after surgery

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. continues to recover in a Pittsburgh hospital after he was shot Monday morning outside the courthouse.

Frank Bruzzese, the judge’s brother, said the judge is sitting up and talking and asking when he can be released from the hospital.

The bullet didn’t hit any vital organs in the lower abdomen, and the wound was repaired with surgery, according to Frank Bruzzese. He said his brother “tolerated the surgery well.”

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said he was hoping for a return to some sense of normalcy when the county courthouse reopened for business today.

Abdalla said on Tuesday the man who was in a vehicle with 51-year-old Nathaniel Richmond just before Richmond opened fire on Bruzzese was released, as authorities have no reason to believe he was involved in the shooting.

A probation officer who returned fire shot and killed Richmond.

Richmond’s body was taken to the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office for an autopsy, according to Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin.

“We will have (additional security). … I don’t want to go into detail. I don’t want to advertise what we’re doing,” Abdalla said about courthouse security.

“A lot of the people who witnessed this, who saw their boss laying in the street with a bullet in him, were traumatized,” he said.

Keeping the courthouse closed Tuesday, Abdalla said, was an appropriate response to that trauma.

Abdalla noted authorities are satisfied that a man who was in the vehicle with Richmond as Richmond waited for Bruzzese in a Huntington Bank drive-through was not involved in the ambush. The man received minor injuries from a bullet ricochet, authorities said.

“He had nothing to do with it. He wasn’t aware of it, what was going on,” Abdalla said.

Investigators have not identified a motive for the shooting. Richmond does have a connection to Bruzzese, however, as a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Richmond against the Jefferson County Metropolitan Housing Authority over an April 2015 fire that claimed the lives of his mother and a 2-year-old child was pending before the judge.