Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

Inmate: No regrets in Tarpon Springs killing

LARGO — Christopher Kubiak fired three shots into the torso of Joseph Brignoli, but he could tell Brignoli was still alive. Though his eyes were closed, his chest was still rising and falling.

So Kubiak shot him several more times, he said in a jailhouse interview Tuesday, for seemingly incongruous reasons. He said wanted to end Brignoli's suffering. And he said he wanted to ensure Brignoli could not carry out threats to kill Kubiak and his young friend, a 13-year-old boy.

As he fled the shooting at Brignoli's Tarpon Springs townhouse Feb. 6, Kubiak noticed two neighbors had come outside to investigate the shots. The neighbors, he said, had always "hated" him and Brignoli.

So Kubiak picked up the rifle again and unloaded five more rounds into Brignoli's face.

"I figured I'd give them some kind of an excuse to hate us," he said.

Kubiak talked to the Tampa Bay Times for more than an hour Tuesday, five days after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The charge was reduced from first-degree murder in an unusual plea deal after investigators determined Kubiak, now 21, shot Brignoli on Super Bowl Sunday to protect the 13-year-old.

While investigating the shooting, Tarpon Springs police found a large cache of child pornography in Brignoli's home. They soon learned that Brignoli had been sexually abusing the boy, who was Kubiak's friend and whom Brignoli had tried to pass off as his own son.

On Tuesday, Kubiak said that while he found Brignoli, the child's martial arts instructor, to be very controlling of the boy, he did not know about the sexual abuse until after he was arrested.

"I was just stunned," he said.

Kubiak said he was about 15 years old when he met the boy in his Tarpon Springs neighborhood.

"He kept getting picked on and stuff. He didn't really have any friends, so I kind of took him under my wing," Kubiak said. He even referred to the boy, who is not being identified by the Times, as his "little brother."

Later, Kubiak met Brignoli. Kubiak said Brignoli was "addicted to drugs" like heroin and Roxicodone. Kubiak admitted he supplied Brignoli with narcotics.

The two worked together to supply others with drugs, Kubiak said. He said they also made money in some other illicit business dealings that he refused to discuss Tuesday, but they eventually had a falling-out.

Sometime in 2010, the two re-established contact through a mutual associate, Kubiak said. On that day, Brignoli showed Kubiak around his new, rented townhome on Flying Fish Lane and took him up to the roof, where they talked for a while.

"I was planning on throwing you off my roof, but with everything we've talked about, we're good now," Kubiak said Brignoli told him.

•••

On Sunday, Feb. 6, Kubiak arrived at Brignoli's townhouse around dusk and found him armed with an assault rifle and wearing a tactical vest with a Bowie knife and five cartridges of bullets attached.

"He looked like f- - - - - - Rambo," Kubiak said.

Brignoli told Kubiak he was going out and indicated he might not return. It sounded like a suicide mission, Kubiak said, but he didn't know then where Brignoli was headed: a Palm Harbor apartment complex where the boy's father lived.

Brignoli had recently argued with the boy's real father, who felt Brignoli was obsessed with his son and told him to back off. In the complex parking lot, Brignoli fired the rifle multiple times. An errant round went through a wall and hit a man, who died several days later from a painkiller overdose.

According to Kubiak, here's what happened next:

Brignoli returned to the townhouse armed and agitated. Kubiak was startled when he heard a shot and a bullet whizzed past his head. He turned to find Brignoli casually holding the gun as if it had accidentally discharged, but Kubiak believes Brignoli tried to kill him.

Brignoli grabbed the phone, called the boy and began arguing with him, then told Kubiak they were going to pick him up. Fearing for his young friend's safety, Kubiak went along.

In hindsight, Kubiak thinks he knows why Brignoli was so agitated that night. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office was already investigating Brignoli for filing a false police report in which he claimed the boy was his son and was missing. He might have feared the sexual abuse would be uncovered through that investigation.

Whatever the reason, Brignoli grew increasingly enraged and threatened to kill Kubiak and the boy several times, Kubiak claims. The boy was scared, Kubiak said, adding that he saw Brignoli grab the boy while they were arguing. The boy hid the rifle in the garage.

Kubiak said he was taking a cigarette break in the garage when he heard a commotion upstairs, so he grabbed the hidden rifle. He intended to intervene, he said, and wanted the weapon in case Brignoli attacked. When he went upstairs, the boy ran and the two men grappled over the gun.

Kubiak, who knew some karate and had been taught martial arts moves by Brignoli, came out on top.

"That kind of led to his demise — all he taught me," Kubiak said. "He taught me how to disarm someone."

Kubiak says Brignoli ran down the stairs and out the front door, but turned back and murmured something about killing Kubiak and finding the boy. That's when Kubiak said he pulled the trigger.

In all, Kubiak shot Brignoli 18 times. He denied making Brig­noli get on his knees first, something reported by authorities.

Kubiak did not express remorse or regret for the shooting, saying "it was a kill-or-be-killed situation" and "I'm glad I got the upper hand."

It was later, Kubiak said, that he learned the shooting had also ended the sexual abuse of the boy he considered a brother.

"I think I kind of put that to rest for him. I'd do more (prison) time if I had to, just for that."

Rita Farlow can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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Published: 05/26/18