Jefferson courthouse again open for business

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County Courthouse employees returned to work on Wednesday, and visitors and attorneys were back inside after the building was closed for two days following Monday’s shootings outside the facility.

Security was beefed up with several sheriff’s deputies and troopers with the highway patrol standing outside the main entrance and the Court Alley door.

Nathaniel Richmond, 51, ambushed Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. on Monday morning in Court Alley, firing multiple shots at the judge. Bruzzese, who was struck in the lower abdomen, is recovering in a Pittsburgh hospital. Richmond was shot by Bruzzese and a courthouse probation officer and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Attorney Costa Mastros visited the courthouse on Wednesday morning.

“You always have to be concerned and vigilant. But you can’t let that dominate your life. You have to push through all that.,” he said. “Anymore, anyplace you go you have to have a bit of situational awareness. It is sad, but that is becoming the new normal. You can’t say you are scared to get out of the house and go to the courthouse. You can’t say that.”

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he appreciated the presence of the law enforcement at the courthouse on Wednesday.

“It shakes people up a lot anytime someone gets shot. Their home has been violated,” Graham said about the courthouse employees. “It is the first time they actually felt fear getting out of their car to come into the courthouse. It is a shame this terroristic act caused this fear. It is normal to feel fear and anger. It is a very typical response. Some workers are taking it hard.”

Counselors from Coleman Professional Services were at the courthouse on Wednesday to talk with workers who needed help.

Tonya Klein-Jackson, Coleman’s director of outpatient behavioral health, said Bruzzese wasn’t the only victim.

“Everyone in the building and the community is affected in some shape or form. We are offering this service for them. They are the secondary victims,” she said. “It is someone they know and care about, as opposed to a stranger. They are sad, angry and fearful. Someone they truly care about was hurt. They are supporting each other. They are getting stronger together. It sends a message they won’t be afraid.”

She noted people experiencing a traumatic event go through stages of reaction, including fear and anger.

“Each stage is a challenge. The workers are getting support from each other,” she said.

Beth Rupert-Warren of Coleman’s community engagement asked the public to report a person who’s mental problems are escalating so professional help can begin. She asked residents to call the Coleman helpline at 740-996-7127 if they have concerns about a person who might need psychological help.

Richmond filed a wrongful death lawsuit in April on behalf of his mother, Mae Etta Richmond, who was killed in a fire on Wellesley Avenue on April 27, 2015. The fire also took the life of Te’On Dillard, 2.

Attorneys for the housing authority had filed a motion on Friday to dismiss the punitive damages in the case and another claim that the housing authority had destroyed the house in order to disrupt the plaintiff’s case.

A hearing on the motion was scheduled to be heard Monday morning before Bruzzese.

The Ohio Supreme Court has appointed retired Judge John Mark Solovan of Belmont County to hear the case.

Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller will be handling Bruzzese’s caseload until he returns.