One July night in 2011 Thomas Dunikowski was enjoying dinner on his neighbor's front porch in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn when their lazy summer idyll was shattered by (what else?) teenagers. According to Dunikowski and his neighbor, a pack of rowdy youths started ripping open garbage bags and throwing beer cans into the yard. An altercation between Men and Teens ensued, at which point one neighbor called 911 to report, "They’re fighting. They’re jumping all over the yard."
But before police could arrive, Dunikowski, 32, went inside his house, loaded his Bushmaster assault rifle, and opened fire on the teens from a second story window. Two of the youths were hospitalized after the shooting: a 17-year-old was struck in the neck and a 14-year old was treated for fragment wounds in his arm and leg. Both injuries were non-life threatening, but Francis Ruan, then 17, took a bullet to the clavicle and his lawyer says he might lose the use of his left arm permanently. A 21-year-old neighbor also sustained shrapnel to one leg.
Yesterday Dunikowski's trial wrapped up; he's facing more than 25 years in prison for attempted murder, criminal possession of an assault weapon and other offenses. Dunikowski claims he saw a weapon in Ruan’s hand, but no other weapons were found at the scene. But his attorney, Jay Schwitzman, says his client was merely trying to protect his family from a vengeful mob. "Tom did what the police wouldn’t do," Schwitzman said during closing arguments yesterday. "Tom protected his home, his wife, his neighbors and himself."
Asked by a prosecutor last week if he considered himself a hero, Dunikowski answered yes. "I tried to scare them away so I fired warning shots into the air,' Dunikowski testified. It's unclear how shots fired "into the air" ended up hitting two people on the ground, but apparently one can be a hero without having very good aim.