Teen on trial in teacher’s slaying says he didn’t mean to harm him
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – His voice steady and calm, a 14-year-old boy on trial for murder in the shooting death of his English teacher testified Tuesday that he liked the man and didn’t mean to harm him.
”He was a nice guy, a good teacher,” said Nathaniel Brazill, whose brief, matter-of-fact answers were carried live on all-news cable networks. ”He made his class fun.”
Brazill was 13 when he was charged last year with firing a shot from a cheap pistol that killed Barry Grunow, 35, a few minutes before middle school let out for summer break. He returned to school after being sent home by a counselor for throwing water balloons.
Dressed in a dark sweater, collared shirt and tie, Brazill took the stand and calmly described how he arrived at Grunow’s classroom and became upset when the teacher refused to let him talk to two girls inside.
He said he took the gun out of his pocket, raised it and pulled backed the hammer because he wanted Grunow take him seriously.
”I thought about it this way: If you have a million dollars and I point the gun at you, are you gonna keep the million dollars or are you gonna give it to me?” Brazill said.
He said the gun fired immediately after Grunow told him to get the gun out of his face. He said the loud sound and blood scared him.
Brazill said his eyes started getting blurry and he later realized they were filling with tears.
”Ten million dollar question, why did you take the gun?” defense attorney Robert Udell asked.
”I was just carrying it,” Brazill said. ”I didn’t plan on using it.”
Grunow was slain May 26, 2000, the last day of classes for the year at Lake Worth Middle School. Brazill, who is being tried as an adult, faces a life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.
”Are you a psycho?” Udell asked Brazill as the youngster took the stand.
”No,” Brazill said.
”Are you demented?”
”What does that mean?” Brazill asked.
”It means are you a cold-blooded killer?”
”No,” Brazill said.
”Did you mean to harm Mr. Grunow?”
When asked by Udell whether he was having any problems at school or home before the shooting, Brazill said no. He said he was doing well in most of his classes but did receive a couple of D’s. Brazill said he deserved the grades and wasn’t angry with the teachers in those classes.
Brazill also said he liked Grunow, who gave him an F in the final grading period. The boy said he wasn’t angry about the grade.
Udell also questioned Brazill about a letter addressed to Grunow, which police found in his room and which was read in court last week. Brazill wrote that his friends and teachers were picking on him and that he was considering suicide.
Brazill said it was a fictional letter that he began writing for an assignment. Most everything in the letter was ”a joke,” he said.
The teen said he liked to be a prankster. He said he had a fake ”hit list” with the names of his friends, and never intended to hurt any of them.
When asked about the gun, Brazill said he took it from a cookie box in his grandfather’s bedroom because he was going on a hunting trip with his uncle that summer. He said he also took five bullets.
The prosecution rested earlier in the day after jurors watched the rest of a videotaped statement that Brazill gave after the shooting. On the tape, Brazill was crying because he had just been told Grunow was dead. Brazill’s mother, Polly Powell, wiped away tears as she watched the tape.
At one point on the tape, Detective Dan Boland asked Brazill why he cried after the shooting.
”Cause I made a stupid mistake,” Brazill said. ”And me and the teacher, we was good friends. I don’t know what happened.”
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