Man who shot Jefferson Co. judge was stopped earlier for faulty headlight

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — The man who shot a judge outside the Jefferson County courthouse was stopped by a police officer hours earlier for having a defective headlight as he drove downtown in the early morning darkness, authorities said.

The suspect, 51-year-old Nathaniel Richmond, was fatally shot Monday after wounding Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr., who’s expected to survive.

The shooting happened about four hours after Richmond was warned about his headlights during the traffic stop, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in nearby West Virginia reported.

Richmond arrived at a neighboring bank a short while before the shooting, left, then returned and walked quickly toward the judge from a parked car and fired, and the judge returned fire, said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.

Surveillance video captured the scene in Steubenville in eastern Ohio, Abdalla said. The video has yet to be released.

One of the first people to help Bruzzese was fellow Jefferson County Judge Michelle Miller, a former nurse, the newspaper reported.

Police have questioned a second man who was in Richmond’s vehicle at the time, but no arrests have been announced.

Jane Hanlin, prosecutor for Jefferson County, said authorities are still looking for a motive.

Records show Bruzzese, 65, was overseeing a wrongful-death case that Richmond filed against a housing authority over a fire that killed Richmond’s mother and his 2-year-old great-nephew in April 2015.

Richmond’s lawsuit against the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority alleges the home had exposed electrical wires and had missing and inoperable smoke alarms. Richmond’s nephew and two of his nephew’s other children escaped the fire.

The agency wanted Bruzzese to dismiss a claim for punitive damages and another claim arguing that critical evidence was lost when the house was torn down immediately after the fire.

Bruzzese was scheduled to hear the housing agency’s request on Aug. 28. Attorneys for the agency declined to comment. Richmond’s attorneys did not return messages left Monday and Tuesday.

The cause of the fire was undetermined, but “unintended cooking” couldn’t be ruled out as a source of the ignition, the state fire marshal said in a report closing the investigation.

Court records show Richmond was arrested in April 2016 on charges of driving-under-the-influence and driving with expired plates, with the DUI charge ultimately downgraded to reckless operation. Several years ago he was arrested on various domestic violence and assault charges, court records show.

Richmond was the father of a Steubenville High School football player convicted of rape in 2013. Ma’Lik Richmond is now a member of the Youngstown State football team.

A visiting judge handled Ma’Lik Richmond’s case.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press