A family tragedy will be aired in court after prosecutors upped charges against John Ellis Fitzpatrick last week in the July shooting death of his father.
More than two months after John William Fitzpatrick, 55, died in a Colorado Springs hospital, prosecutors with the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office brought new charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide against his son John Ellis Fitzpatrick last week.
The move, said Daniela Fitzpatrick, wife of the victim and mother of the defendant, has caused more hardship for her family as they process a “private family accident.”
“My family has repeatedly asked for the prosecutor to drop these charges, as they are not warranted in these circumstances and only cause the family more pain,” Daniela said in a written statement sent to The Gazette.
According to Daniela, her husband was accidentally shot by her 26-year-old son while he was showing his father a gun he’d recently bought. After the gun fired, Daniela said John Ellis immediately called for an ambulance, and tore off his own shirt to put pressure on his father’s wound.
“My husband made it clear to both myself and law enforcement that this incident was an accident and not an act of malice,” Daniela said. “John and John Ellis had a wonderful, loving relationship.”
Daniela and her family, she said, asked prosecutors several times to drop the charges. Among those requests was a motion to toss a restraining order filed just after the incident keeping John Ellis from seeing his father, stating that John William “confirmed to the prosecution that this incident was an accident and that [John Ellis] poses no danger to him.”
In an Oct. 5 hearing, John Ellis’ family pleaded their case with district judge Linda Billings-Vela.
Despite their requests, Howard Black, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said the case is still open. He added that "it would not be ethical ... to discuss an active case in a public forum."
John Ellis is expected to enter a plea in the case on Dec. 6.
According to an arrest affidavit, people living in the 3300 block of North Arcadia Street, near Nevada Avenue and Fillmore Street, had seen John Ellis and his father drinking together the afternoon of May 6. The two had arrived at the house around 5 p.m., armed with a six-pack of beer and a half-empty jar of moonshine.
According to neighbors, the two “seemed to be getting along,” but remarked that John Ellis in particular seemed to be very intoxicated.
The two walked into their home, where John Ellis later told police he and his father drank more moonshine, a quarter bottle between them in roughly 30 minutes.
At some point in the afternoon, after Diana had left, John Ellis told police, the two dared each other to go out into their backyard to shoot glass bottles out of trees with their guns.
John Ellis had recently bought his pistol, a compact 9 mm Ruger, and told police he had only shot it at a firing range a few times before, adding he thought the gun didn’t work properly because it kept jamming after firing just one shot.
John Ellis told police he loaded a magazine into his pistol and pulled back the slide, putting one round into the gun's firing chamber. Then he released the magazine from the gun, and shot one bottle out of the tree. According to the affidavit, the slide was closed after he fired the first shot into a bottle.
The two moved into the garage, where John Ellis placed the loaded magazine back in the gun but didn’t rack the slide to ready it for firing, according to the affidavit. Then, believing there wasn’t a round in the chamber, John Ellis told police he squeezed the trigger to prove the it wouldn't fire.
He only realized the pistol loosed a 9 mm bullet when his father fell over, bleeding from a wound just below his ribcage.
Police raced to the home at around 5:50 that day and found a distraught John Ellis tending to his father, who’d been brought out to the sidewalk. One neighbor who saw the two come out of the house said she was too nervous to come to their aid because John Ellis was "so intoxicated,” according to the affidavit.
Officers took John Ellis by the arm to walk him to a cruiser, but said he was unsteady on his feet, and tripped forward and nearly fell on his father. Police said they asked him if anyone had been drinking or had taken drugs before the shooting, John Ellis told them “absolutely not.”
An ambulance rushed John William to a local hospital. Police arrested John Ellis later that day on assault charges. John William died nearly two months later, on July 28, leading prosecutors to add manslaughter and criminally negligent charges against John Ellis last week.
John Ellis, according to court records, was bailed out of jail May 7. As a condition of his bail, district judge Samuel Evig ruled John Ellis couldn’t consume any alcohol, must submit to random alcohol monitoring, and surrender his firearms, which he did May 19.