Firefighter's widow says husband defending himself in cop fight - KCTV5

Firefighter's widow shares grief, defends husband's actions

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Officer Donald Hubbard in hospital Officer Donald Hubbard in hospital
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The newlywed whose husband died in a showdown with an off-duty Kansas City Police Department officer is speaking publicly for the first time about the horrifying events that left her a widow.

Stephanie Steele had strong words for the actions of the police officer who fatally shot her husband.

"I think he was defending himself," Stephanie Bruno said during an interview that aired Thursday on Inside Edition. "I think he was fearful because he didn't resist, and he was trying to talk the cop down or the security guard or whatever you call him."

A Jackson County grand jury cleared Officer Donald Hubbard who suffered extensive facial injuries during the fight with Anthony Bruno, and who has undergone reconstructive surgeries.

Stephanie Bruno married Anthony Bruno in November in Florida. They celebrated their wedding reception with their family and friends the night of Nov. 30 at a downtown hotel. By early morning on Dec. 1, Anthony Bruno was dead.

During the interview that aired on KCTV5, Stephanie Bruno recalled her husband's joy in being a firefighter.

"He would always come home so excited with that smell after a really good fire," Bruno told the syndicated show while going through her late husband's bunker gear.

Anthony Bruno, 26, hailed from several generations of firefighters. His father, John Bruno, a retired deputy chief, remembered that awful early morning telephone call from Fire Chief Paul Berardi.

"Paul Berardi called me and said, ‘John, you need to get down to Truman [Medical Center] now,'" said John Bruno. "And I asked him, ‘Paulie, how bad is it?' And he said, ‘It's bad.' And I said, ‘What happened?' And he said, ‘Anthony's been shot twice in the chest.'"

It all started at 12th Street and Wyandotte Avenue at the Marriott Muehlebach Tower, where the newlyweds got into an argument with a cab driver over the fare. An enraged Anthony Bruno punched the cabbie after Stephanie Bruno says the cab driver tossed the fare money into her face and called her an extremely vulgar word.

After the altercation, Bruno slipped away apparently in an effort to cool off. Officer Hubbard was in a uniform but working off duty at the hotel. He chased after Bruno.

A bystander recorded the fatal confrontation. Hubbard was attempting to get Anthony Bruno in handcuffs. Bruno offers one arm but won't offer the other. Soon, the situation escalates and both officer and groom are struggling to get the upper hand. The officer uses a knee to hold Bruno in place, but Bruno flips the officer on his back and punches his multiple times.

Stephanie Bruno is haunted by the words she can hear her husband say.

While Anthony Bruno is lying face up, and the officer is trying to get a hold of an arm, Anthony Bruno says, "Please, can you not be nice? All I'm asking is you be nice."

"'Why can you not be nice to me?' Stephanie Bruno said, repeating his words. "If that's resisting, we're all in trouble."

The police report of the incident describes Bruno's actions as resisting, not complying with instructions. More specifically, officers say he assaulted the cab driver, resisted the officer and then assaulted Hubbard.

A 17-year veteran of the Kansas City Police Department and a veteran member of the military, Hubbard has not spoken publicly. But he did put in a report that, "I believe the suspect was not going to stop hitting me until he killed me. I feared for my life."

But Stephanie Bruno says she believes the opposite was true.

"If you can't talk someone down and then they end up knee dropping you and breaking the side of your face," she said, trailing off in tears. "I think he was forced to act and was in fear for his life."

Police said they could not respond because of the possibility of a lawsuit. Stephanie Bruno, a former Clay County prosecutor, has hired top plaintiffs attorney, Ken McClain, and is exploring her litigation options.

Bruno's blood-alcohol content was .21, according to his autopsy.

Stephanie Bruno said her husband "wasn't falling over, he wasn't slurring his words."

During the interview, Stephanie Bruno recalled the happy moments and said her husband "was an amazing man."

She was asked about many saying that Hubbard had no recourse but to fire his service weapon.

"My husband didn't have recourse. His face was broken. He was forced to defend himself," the emotional woman said.

When asked her reaction to the grand jury's decision, Stephanie Bruno teared up and said she was disappointed.

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