Reducing risk of more attacks like Monday’s

No doubt many area residents had Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph Bruzzese in their thoughts and prayers Monday evening. It was a relief that afternoon to learn the judge had undergone surgery at a Pittburgh hospital and, according to local officials, was “doing fine.”

Compassion toward Bruzzese and his family was mixed with horror and outrage, however. The judge was ambushed and shot Monday morning while on the way to his office in the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville. His assailant was killed in an exchange of gunfire with Bruzzese and a probation officer who happened upon the scene.

In discussing the tragedy with reporters, Sheriff Fred Abdalla asked, “Whoever thought this could happen here?”

“It was an assassination attempt like something you see in South America,” commented attorney Eric Reszke, adding, “They crossed the line on this. Attorneys, judges and police officers never were targets in this manner. That has changed today.”

Actually, the attitude among wrongdoers that violence against law enforcement officers and officials, including prosecutors and judges, was off-limits has been in the process of changing for years.

Not uncommon these days are reports such as those of a crowd marching through New York City chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops!” Is it any wonder some have felt emboldened to commit violence against those involved in law enforcement at every level?

In that context, it is no wonder that Abdalla’s remarks included the suggestion that, “Every judge should be armed today in America. Prosecutors need to be armed.”

Bruzzese was, and that may have saved his life. Upon being attacked, the judge drew his own weapon and returned fire. Had he been unarmed, he might not have survived.

One concern is what can be done to safeguard prosecutors and judges against whom some people may have grudges. Unfortunately, very little can be done in that regard, other than, perhaps, to offer them body armor and, if they do not already carry guns, weapons for self-defense.

One sad truth is that if someone wants to harm a prosecutor, judge or other law enforcement officer, not much can be done to prevent an attack.

The stigma against such violence is under assault throughout the nation. Making it clear that while that attitude may be spreading elsewhere, it simply is not acceptable around here may be the only thing we can do to lessen the potential for future attacks such as that on Monday.