These are just a few notes from the notebook I used while watching attorney Richard Ruggieri’s closing statement in Brandon Maxfield’s case, which was the first time I saw the attorney ‘work.’ The note in the upper right references how Ruggieri had told his young client not to attend due to the sensitive, difficult issues Ruggieri would be talking about. Upper left are quick notes about the jury, and below are notes about Ruggieri explaining that he wasn’t asking for sympathy for Brandon, but rather for empathy. Although I’d done some research on the story prior to this day, Ruggieri’s closing statements and his masterful connection with the jury convinced me to write Move To Fire.
The pilot set a course that paralleled highway 101 and, at some point, overtook Sue and Clint in their car below. Both vehicles were moving the family away from their previous, normal lives and toward an unknown future. Brandon was flying away from a normal childhood, leaving behind games of hide and seek in the woods, adventures on his bike and baseball games in the summer. Whether he lived or died, he would never take another step, never wave hello or goodbye, and never hug again.
Ripples from the accident moved through the entire community, and the effects would touch, alter, and impact hundreds of lives. From its small but explosive beginning, the accident’s economic and financial impact on people, schools, the health care and legal systems wouldn’t be fully realized for years, but the effect on the local emergency services and medical system was already substantial, quickly hitting the tens of thousands of dollars in hard costs for the sheriff, paramedics and CDF responses, the ambulance and emergency room treatment, physicians and staff.
The ripple was now moving south at an altitude of two-thousand feet. Every passing minute the REACH chopper was in the air was a minute of calculated risk, and this flight would add $5,000 to the growing costs of Brandon’s accident.
As in so many other aspects of their lives, the family was no different than many blue collar and low income working families, in that they had no health insurance to speak of, nothing that would address anything as catastrophic as Brandon’s sudden medical and health care needs. At a point in the very near future, they would be forced to deal with the paperwork, documents and liens associated with all of this, but right now their toll was psychological, emotional devastation.
The drive to Santa Rosa Memorial hospital took almost ninety minutes. When they arrived, Sue and Clint were told the flight had been redirected to Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, another ninety-minute drive to the southeast.
They had left Willits an hour and a half ago, not knowing the condition of their boy, but because the helicopter had not stopped in Santa Rosa, no one there had any information about Brandon. Clint and Sue wouldn’t know Brandon’s condition for at least another thirty minutes.
Continuing from Chapter One:
Twenty-four hours before the shooting, and six-hundred miles south, in Anaheim, California, a fax was transmitted from Brown & Wilcox, a commercial insurance underwriter, to an agent at an insurance brokerage, regarding Bryco Arms, the manufacturer of the Bryco Model 38.
Bryco had just come off of a good year, with $7,000,000 in sales from 1993-1994, and $14,000,000 sales projections for the next year. The small, privately owned company held the top spot of the small handgun industry. Sales for the Bryco Model 38 were more than $2,500,000 dollars. But the company had been negotiating the cost of liability insurance. The current policy had officially lapsed on April 1st. The new policy would be almost $250,000, an almost $40,000 increase.
Bryco Arms and other small handgun manufacturers were seeing increasing premiums across the board. Market forces, changes in gun laws, especially in California, growing anti-gun sentiment, bad press and a slow but steady rise in litigation against gun makers had insurance companies re-evaluating their clients. The makers of small guns were serious liability risks, and the insurance companies that continued to insure handgun manufacturers had increased premiums and narrowed coverage. As Bryco Arms’ policy neared expiration and the company shopped around for a new policy, three major insurance companies declined to quote coverage for the company.
Bryco Arms negotiated with its insurance agent until the liability coverage expired on April 1, 1994. An offer was made to extend coverage until April 8th, for an additional $8,000, but, as the broker noted on an April 5th fax to the commercial underwriter, “…it is my feeling the insured will not be renewing with us. He feels the cost is too high…”
And so, two days before seven-year old Brandon Maxfield had been wheeled into his small town’s emergency room, closer to death than life, unable to breathe on his own, his spine shattered just below the base of his skull, the manufacturer of the Bryco Model 38 had chosen to ‘go bare’ — Bryco Arms was now without insurance to compensate anyone injured by a defective Bryco handgun.
Brian Fies is a personal and professional friend. His review was unsolicited and, frankly, unexpected. With his permission, I included this part of his review on the book’s Amazon Page: “…like a legal thriller…the suspense is compelling. Move to Fire isn’t an anti-gun screed. Move to Fire is a passion project by a writer who knows how to mine facts, build characters, and use them to tell a terrific story. I found it an engrossing, well-built narrative that pulled me through, page by page.” — Brian Fies, award winning author of Mom’s Cancer and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow.
From Chapter One:
He knew he wasn’t supposed to touch it, but he and Jerry were in charge, and the crazy guy above them had a gun. There was a lot that could happen before the sheriffs could get back here. How could you protect yourself from someone with a gun, unless you had a gun too?
John pulled open the drawer, reached inside and lifted the top off the gun’s box. Inside was the small, nickel-plated Brco Model 38, a .380 caliber, semi-automatic manufactured by Bryco Arms…
Next to the gun was a dark-gray magazine. The bottom of that magazine was bright, brushed aluminum.
With each move — entering the bedroom, opening the dresser drawer, opening the box with the gun it it — John was breaking all the major rules of the home. Any one of the infractions alone was enough for serious punishment, but John could only think of the crazy people up above, and the gunshots. Sue had said over the phone to ‘unload the gun,’ so he removed the magazine from the box and used his thumb to push out the bullets, five of them, one by one, letting them drop into the box, then he picked up the gun…
[in less than a few more minutes, Brandon would be lying on his home’s living room floor, close to death]