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Gazette Premium Content Colorado Springs lawyer says bullet in the eye was like being hit by lightning bolt

By Lance Benzel Published: January 21, 2014

A Colorado Springs divorce lawyer told a jury Tuesday that he thought he had been hit by a "lightning bolt" the night he was shot in the eye while working late at his downtown law office.

After taking the stand for his second day of testimony at the trial of accused sniper shooter Bruce J. Nozolino, veteran attorney John Ciccolella recalled how he was knocked to the floor by what he thought was an electric shock.

"A shockwave hit me and went through my entire body, and it was severe," Ciccolella told jurors, choking back tears. In a voice strained by emotion, he said his thoughts turned to an errant lightning bolt as he was knocked to the floor and spent what he thought would be the final moments of his life calling out for his high-school aged son, who was working in another room.

In reality, Ciccolella had been hit in the right eye by a bullet that exited the bridge of his nose. It was the second time he had been targeted by a sniper in seven months.

After the earlier occasion - involving a shot fired into Ciccolella's home in June 2001 - Ciccolella installed a door buzzer and a surveillance camera at his law practice and resolved to keep his blinds closed at home and at work.

On the night of the Jan. 23, 2002, office shooting, however, a "light, airy snow" fell downtown, and Ciccolella wanted to take in the scene - then forgot to shut the blinds when it grew dark.

Nozolino, 52, is on trial in what prosecutors characterize as a decade-spanning series of revenge shootings, including both attacks on Ciccolella, who represented Nozolino's ex-wife, Beverly, in a contentious divorce that began in the late 1990s.

The conservative activist and former Lockheed Martin software engineer also is accused in the 2008 slaying of his ex-wife's former lover and the attempted murder of a judge who presided over the divorce proceedings.

During cross-examination, attorneys for Nozolino attacked Ciccolella's claim on the stand that he immediately suspected Nozolino in the shooting.

Attorney Tina Tussay of Castle Rock mentioned several other names Ciccolella provided police that night, including a man who she said had threatened Ciccolella in the past, owned an "arsenal" of weapons, and visited his law practice earlier that day.

Ciccolella responded that he was asked for the names of anyone who could "possibly" be involved, but that he felt certain that Nozolino was the assailant.

Under cross-examination, Ciccolella acknowledged that he hadn't seen the shooter after either attack. Nozolino's attorneys say he is being tried on the basis of "theories," not evidence, and charge that authorities have no concrete ties to their client.

Also testifying for the prosecution Tuesday were the defendant's estranged daughters Brittany and Bobbi Nozolino, who say they have had only fleeting contact with their father since moving to Virginia in 2002.

They described a night when Bruce Nozolino became enraged after learning that Brittany Nozolino had been told of her parents' impending divorce and threw a cup of Kool-Aid or water at their mother during an obscenity-laced rant.

"We packed up our suitcases and went to a hotel, and that was the last time we ever lived in that house," said Brittany Nozolino.

Now 25 and estranged from her father, she is a Massachusetts graduate student working toward a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, she said.

Testimony resumes at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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