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Shooting Victim Is Outbid for Costa Mesa Gun Maker

Ex-manager of Bryco Arms tops an offer by a teen paralyzed by one of its guns. The boy sought to keep the firm nonoperational.

August 13, 2004|Mike Anton | Times Staff Writer

A former plant manager of Bryco Arms bought the controversial Costa Mesa gun maker for $510,000 in federal bankruptcy court Thursday, outbidding a teenager who was left a quadriplegic after being accidentally shot with a Bryco pistol a decade ago.

Representatives of Brandon Maxfield, 17, were attempting to buy the company -- which they drove into bankruptcy with an award from a lawsuit after the shooting -- to ensure that the plant would never operate again. They offered $505,000, but could go no further when a San Antonio man who had offered to pledge a "substantial portion" of the bid reached his limit.

"I put up more than my house cost," said Daniel Bennett, 52, who learned of Maxfield's attempt to buy Bryco from a television news report.

Bennett, who owns several guns, said he was drawn to Maxfield's cause because of the type of weapon manufactured by Bryco -- inexpensive "Saturday night specials" that law officers say are commonly used in crimes. Included in Bryco's sale are about 75,000 handgun frames that Maxfield's team planned to destroy.

"It was a public-safety issue," Bennett said. "Things being what they are in the world today, I wanted to do something to make it better."

The winning bidder -- Paul Jimenez of Chino -- plans to restart the company under the name Jimenez Arms. He said in a June interview that he was using his "life savings" to buy Bryco, but Thursday said little of the purchase price would come from personal funds.

"I have several resources that are going to loan me the money," he said, although he declined to detail those involved except to say that Bryco founder Bruce Jennings was not among them. Maxfield's lawyers have alleged that because the sale of Bryco doesn't include trade names, customer lists and other key assets, Jimenez's bid was designed to allow Jennings to gain control of the firm at a later date.

Jimenez offered more than three times the original $150,000 asking price set by Jennings. Ultimately Maxfield may benefit from that higher price, because he is the largest creditor in Bryco's bankruptcy. Last year, an Alameda County jury ordered Bryco, Jennings and his Nevada-based distributorship to pay the Mendocino County teenager $24 million after it found that the handgun Maxfield was shot with was defectively designed.

Bryco and Jennings immediately filed for bankruptcy in Jennings' home state of Florida. Maxfield -- who has already received $8.75 million but will require a lifetime of special care -- stands to get at least a portion of what's paid for Bryco.

"We knew going in that at the very least we would force them to pay a realistic price [for the company] rather than the artificially low price that was set," said Richard Ruggieri, one of Maxfield's attorneys. "But the primary motive was to buy the company ... to prevent other families from going through the hell Maxfield and his family have."

Bryco stopped manufacturing guns earlier this year. Jimenez put up $150,000 for Bryco's assets in June, but U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerry A. Funk delayed the sale to give creditors time to file objections. Meantime, Maxfield's team countered with a bid of $175,000, money raised largely through an Internet campaign.

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