Man accused of shooting neighbors in dispute over tree felling

Authorities interviewed the victim’s 8-year-old son, who witnessed his father being shot

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A disagreement over cutting down a tree turned deadly after an elderly man shot his neighbor, according to a Florida sheriff’s office.

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Edward Druzolowski was arrested Sunday on a second-degree murder charge after he admitted to investigators that he killed 42-year-old Brian Ford because he failed to leave Druzolowski’s property while he was trimming trees along the fence line, according to the sheriff’s office Volusia County. Ford’s 8-year-old son watched as his father was shot.

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Druzolowski, a 78-year-old with osteoporosis, told investigators he brought the gun for protection because he feared what would happen to his body if he was pushed to the ground. Druzolowski’s wife told investigators that her husband just wanted to “scare” Ford.

National experts said some gun owners in the United States, with its prevailing gun culture, are struggling to make split-second decisions that don’t end in death because shooters are plagued by fear or paranoia or don’t understand their legal protections. Many Americans are afraid of each other, and fear coupled with guns can often lead to unnecessary death, they say.

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Florida, the third most populous state in the country, has earned the nickname “Gunshine State” – state data shows there is one gun permit for every eight Floridians. Lawmakers passed a bill in March that would allow people to carry concealed firearms without a permit or proof of training, often referred to as “constitutional carry.”

Druzolowski said he never had any problems with Ford. He said they hadn’t spoken in a few years. But he was afraid of Ford because Ford had told him in the past how he would win fights in prison.

“Edward said he was afraid that Brian would have injured or killed him if he had not shot him,” investigators wrote.

Druzolowski told investigators he was in his bedroom watching football Sunday night when his wife came in and said Ford was cutting branches from their tree. He didn’t think much of it because he believed Ford was on his own property, according to the arrest report. When Druzolowski’s wife returned later and said Ford was on their property, Druzolowski retrieved his holstered .357 Magnum revolver, wrapped in a blue handkerchief, from the bottom drawer of his bedside table and went outside.

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Druzolowski said in the arrest report that he saw his gate opening from his back porch and Ford working with a chainsaw. Druzolowski told officers he ordered Ford to leave his property. Ford essentially told him to mind his business and then insulted him, Druzolowski said.

The older man said he then pulled out his revolver, threw the holster and handkerchief on the ground and aimed it at Ford.

“‘You’re pointing a gun at me, are you going to shoot me?'” Druzolowski recalled Ford saying as the younger man approached. Druzolowski told investigators he yelled at Ford not to come any closer or he would shoot.

Druzolowski told investigators that he left the first two chambers of his revolver empty for safety reasons. But when he aimed at Ford, he pulled the trigger once. Click. Nothing. He said Ford continued to approach him. Click.

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This time the gun fired. Apparently there was a cartridge in the chamber.

Druzolowski said he yelled for his wife to call 911.

Druzolowski said he didn’t call 911 sooner because he didn’t think they would respond to a tree dispute between neighbors, and besides, Ford would have left his property by the time police arrived.

Authorities interviewed Ford’s 8-year-old son, who witnessed his father being shot. The boy said his father told Druzolowski, “I’m going to cut your head off with the chainsaw,” but the chainsaw was neither turned on nor running. Police made no further mention of this statement in their report.

Police found Ford lying face up, a chainsaw strapped to his right foot and two knives nearby.

Druzolowski remained in the Volusia County Jail without bail Tuesday morning. His arraignment hearing is scheduled for Oct. 12, according to Volusia online court records.

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