Lawyers for Austin Daniel Rozdilski admit the teen gunned down a high school student earlier this year. But they contend the 17-year-old acted in self-defense when he opened fire behind an apartment building off Langhorne Road.
On Monday, Rozdilski will appear in Lynchburg Circuit Court to begin what is scheduled to be a two-day jury trial. He is accused of killing Dre’yon “Biggs” Browley, 18, and grievously wounding Justin “JB” Barnett, now 19. Both victims were E.C. Glass High School seniors and on the varsity football team at the time of the shooting.
Rozdilski, a former student at Brookville High School in Campbell County, is charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding and two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. If convicted, he could face between 18 and 68 years in prison.
In a pre-trial hearing Friday, Joseph Sanzone, Rozdilski’s attorney, said the teen visited the Meadows Apartments on May 16 to sell a firearm but shot at Browley and Barnett when they attempted to steal the weapon. Sanzone suggested the pair of football players were in the proximity of firearms when the shooting occurred.
“My client shot while he was being robbed,” Sanzone said in court.
Sanzone and Rozdilski’s mother, Bernadette Gurlin, both declined to discuss the case last week.
According to court documents, several bystanders witnessed the shooting and watched Rozdilski flee the scene in a blue Honda. Investigators later tracked him to a residence in Campbell County where he was taken into custody.
In an interview with police after his arrest, Rozdilski told investigators he shot Browley and Barnett in self-defense. Police recovered a 9mm handgun and seized “green plant material” from the Honda, court records show.
In a search warrant, an investigator wrote the “firearm was observed in plain view and was still loaded.”
Browley’s death sent shock waves through the E.C. Glass community. Two days after the shootings, hundreds of community members gathered at the school’s football field for a prayer vigil.
E.C. Glass head football coach Jeff Woody said Browley never hesitated to tell others he loved them and urged the crowd to focus on love, too.
“I have grieved, I have grieved, I have cried, and I’m over it,” Woody said. “Right now, I have love in my heart.”
Jury selection begins today and prosecutors have asked the court to call a 50-member jury pool, indicating they may struggle to identify 12 jurors to hear the high-profile case.
Prosecutors have subpoenaed more than 20 witnesses to appear at the trial, including police officers, medical professionals and members of the victims’ families.
Rozdilski is currently being held at the Lynchburg Juvenile Detention Center. Under Virginia state law, Rozdilski will face trial as an adult.