Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A tragedy in a small town, ten years later, the case of Charles Campbell and Richard D DiGuglielmo

Sorry folks, way off topic today, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. 10 years ago today a terrible tragedy happened in a small suburban town. Lives of many people both inocent and not were changed forever. And for what? A parking space! And 10 years later, the man who ended another's life, says that he'd do it again if he had to and his supporters act as if he is a victim. I have no personal bone to pick with these people, no vendeta. I don't have a grudge against Police Officers or Italian Americans, nor with the town of Dobbs Ferry New York. But I've read quite a lot of unbalanced opinion in the forums of my local paper concerning this story. I've seen webpages devoted to the "railroading" of this unintentional killer and feel a need to speak out.
Richard D. DiGuglielmo was 31 years old and had aproximately 10 years on the New York Police Department, but was off duty on the 3rd of October 1996 at 5pm when the events that shatterd lives occurred.

Charles Campbell was 37 years old and a father of one son. I have to admit I didn't know him, and unfortunately couldn't find much information on him online. But how much can you find online about an average citizen. I'm sure he was no angel, how many of us are? Maybe he had a few encounters with the law, but many people do, especially young black men. But Charles Campbell's only "crime" that day, was that he stopped on Ashford Avenue for a slice of Pizza and parked in the nearest parking lot to the little shop. Unfortunately he couldn't have known how fatal that mistake would be. You see, the Pizza shop doesn't have any parking and the street that it's on is a busy road with no on-street parking in front of it. So Mr Campbell like many before him, parked in the lot for the Venice Deli, owned by Richard B DiGuglielmo who was 54 on this date.

The Venice Deli was the busiest business in a tiny commercial property that included a nail salon upstairs and a florist on the next lot. The owner was fiercly protective of the few spots in the small lot, and his frustration must have been very great that day. I'm sure that Mr DiGuglielmo the senior's blood would boil everytime he saw another car park in "his" lot and run across the street to the Pizza Parlor on the corner. So when Charles Campbell pulled up in his 1993 Corvette, jumped out and started across the street, the elder DiGuglielmo yelled after him. Campbell is reported to have called back to the shop owner, that he would come back and purchase a soda from his deli after he got his slice of Pizza.

Frustration and anger forced the Deli owner to go inside and grab a "No Parking" sticker, then return to the Corvette plastering it to the driver's window. Now it was Mr Campbell's turn for anger.

There are rarely inocent parties in this type of confrontations, and only the people who were there can know exactly what happened, but the reports say that Campbell and the elder DiGuglielmo started with heated words, then pushing and shoving. At some point The son and son in-law both men in their 30's emerged from the Deli and Campbell probably fearing being out numbered went to his trunk to get an aluminum baseball bat. Like I said there are rarely inocents involved in this type of tragedy. So one man against three armed with a baseball bat. At that point, you would have thought someone would have called the Police.

Dobbs Ferry, a town I lived in for a few years, is not a big town, from the Deli to the Police station is maybe a mile and a half, and the hospital and fire station are only half a mile from where this happened. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Police cars parked in the Deli's lot. It couldn't have taken more than a few minutes if someone had called for officers to arrive. But no, instead Richard the younger went back into the Deli and retrieved a 32 caliber pistol from behind the counter. His father's gun from what I've read in the paper. A curious detail that probably means nothing, but why would an off duty Police officer need to go for a gun? I have friends and family on different Police forces and they ussually have an off duty gun on their person.

You can see where this is going I'm sure, the son came out and shot the "bat weilding fellon" as his family and supporters have portrayed him, three times in the torso. He was defending his father, a noble thing. Something I can appreciate, if I could have saved my father's life the same way, I'm sure I would have. But that's purely an emotional response on my part, and probably of many suporters.

Many of the people who left comments on the local paper's forums sound like Police supporters, and I don't take issue with that. But how many know the ground where this happened? How many can take a step back and see how many ways this could have been avoided. Why is Charles Campbell's past examined in any way? The man stopped for a slice of Pizza! He wasn't holding up the Deli! He parked where an angry shopkeeper didnt' want him to!!!!

I knew Richard D DiGulielmo in High School, not as a friend, but in passing. He seemd like a very nice guy, just your average high school kid. Not a jerk or a bully at all. I did not know him on October 3 1996, nor can I put myself in his place. I'm sure he felt justified in killing a man that was swinging a baseball bat at his father.

But all this over a parking spot!

Many lives were changed that day a decade ago, one was ended. A son, a boy of 12 never saw his father again, Charles Campbell's son. A father watched his son taken away to prison, Rich DiGuglielmo's father. The pain for these families won't go away, the events of that fatefull day will haunt them all for the rest of their lives. And well it should.

DiGuglielmo's family and supporters claim an overzealous District Attorney played the race card and his punishment was too severe. I'm not a lawyer, I don't know, but 20 years to life sounds about right for killing a man. Despite emotions, this was not self defense, and nobody involved was a total inocent. Charles Campbell feared for his safety when he got the bat from the trunk.

The sad truth may be this, one man is dead and another's future is ruined, because on petty man wanted to lay claim to a piece of asphalt.

I feel sorry for Charle's Campbell's family and even for Richard DiGuglielmo's family. It's hard not to feel that all this could have, should have been avoided.

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