A Florida man who held his brother in a chokehold with a knife over his head is dead after his father stopped the assault with a fatal gunshot, police say.
The incident left the father “shattered,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said at a news conference on Sunday, reports TCPalm.com. “I don’t know that there’s any way for me to adequately describe the look on his face.”
The father, 56-year-old John Maloney, was not arrested, and the sheriff said he was apparently justified in his use of deadly force to save his second son.
According to authorities, John Maloney’s wife, Marie, placed a 911 call at 5:47 a.m. Sunday from the family’s Stuart home to allege that their 30-year-old son, Joseph, was acting “irrational and needs to be Baker Acted,” a reference to a state mental health law that allows for involuntary detention of someone who is perceived to be a danger to themselves or others.
In the hours leading to the altercation between the brothers, Joseph’s parents had locked themselves in their bedroom for safety, with Joseph attacking the door using a machete as his brother, James, 26, tried to calm him, Snyder said.
Investigating officers later observed machete marks in the door, Snyder said.
While officers were en route to that call, Marie dialed 911 again to report that her husband had just shot Joseph, who was found dead from several gunshots when officers arrived.
Joseph faced an upcoming trial on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide stemming from a wrong-way crash in 2015 that killed a high school football coach, and was suffering from stress, family members told investigators.
The parents said an argument over a game of billiards between their sons, both of whom had been drinking the previous night, had preceded the shooting incident, the sheriff said.
During that conflict, Joseph put his brother in a chokehold with one arm, and with the other arm held a “rather large butterfly knife” over James’ head, Snyder said at the news conference, reports WPTV.
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Their father “verbally intervened in an attempt to get the older sibling Joseph off of James, but he was unable to do so,” Snyder said. “At one point the parents heard their younger son pleading for his brother to stop choking him because he couldn’t breathe.”
“His brother continued to strangle his sibling with one arm, while holding a knife over him with his other hand,” he said, reports the Associated Press.
That’s when the father grabbed his revolver and fired at the older son.
Said the sheriff: “The physical evidence and the witness statements indicate that at the time of the incident, Mr. Maloney believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent the death or great bodily injury to his younger son.”
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