Teen Fails To Buy Gun Company

A California teenager left paralyzed in a shooting accident a decade ago failed Thursday in his bid to buy the company that produced the Saturday night special that changed his life.

Brandon Maxfield's final bid of $505,000 to buy Bryco Arms, one of the nation's leading makers of inexpensive guns known as Saturday night specials, fell short. He had wanted to acquire it in order to shut it down.

Paul Jimenez, Bryco's former foreman, purchased the company for $510,000, in spirited bidding that increased by $5,000 increments from the opening bid of $175,000.

In an earlier hearing, Jimenez was sold the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company for $150,000, but the U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerry Funk reopened the bidding when he ruled that notice of the previous sale was not properly given to potential bidders.

Richard Ruggieri, who represented Brandon's Arms, the organization created to bid on the gun company, said Maxfield was very disappointed.

Jimenez refused to comment after the auction.

Bryco was forced into bankruptcy last year when Maxfield won a record $24 million judgment against the company, its distribution arm and its owner. A jury in Oakland, Calif., concluded that Bryco knew the pistol had a safety flaw.

Included in the purchase was about 75,600 unassembled guns. Maxfield hoped to buy the inventory, melt it down and create a sculpture from the metal.

Ned Nashban, the lawyer representing Bryco owner Bruce Jennings in the bankruptcy, had described Maxfield's acquisition attempt as a publicity stunt that only has delayed Jennings' efforts to settle his debts.

But Ruggieri maintained that Jimenez was only a front for Jennings.

When Maxfield was 7, a 20-year-old family friend who was baby-sitting thought he heard a suspicious noise and grabbed a gun from a dresser drawer. The baby sitter called the boy's mother, who instructed him to immediately unload the .38-caliber pistol. While trying to do that, the baby sitter accidentally pulled the trigger.

The bullet struck the boy, shattering his spine.

The Oakland jury assigned more than half the blame to the boy's parents and baby sitter, but said the gun maker also was liable because the pistol could only be unloaded when its trigger safety catch was switched off.

A trust established for the boy has collected $8.75 million from an ex-wife of Jennings and from the insurance company of a gun distributor. It had not collected any money from Jennings, who shuttered his factory, moved to Florida and put his manufacturing business into bankruptcy.

Ruggieri had set up a nonprofit organization to take donations over the Internet for Maxfield's hoped-for purchase, since the damages won from the accident could not be used for that purpose under the terms of the trust.

By Ron Word