Readers: This week marks the 15th anniversary of the horrific slaying of Lake Worth Middle School teacher Barry Grunow, in the doorway of his classroom, at the hand of his 13-year-old student, Nathaniel Brazill.
On May 26, 2000, the last day of the school year, Brazill — due to get an F in Grunow’s class, and angry after being suspended — went to the home of a family friend. There, on the table, was a legally owned pistol
Making ominous comments such as “I’m going to be all over the news,” the seventh-grader returned to the school, standing at Grunow’s classroom door, asking to see his friends. Grunow laughed and refused. Brazill cocked the cheap pistol and shot the 35-year-old father of two in the face.
Police interrogation video shows him weeping after a detective told him that Grunow was dead. “What was I thinking? What was I thinking?” he cried.
Brazill, now 28, remains in state prison. In 2010, in a 10-year-anniversary interview with the late Palm Beach Post reporter Susan Spencer-Wendel, Brazill said he was looking forward to his release date: May 18, 2028. He’ll be nearly 42.
He said of the slaying, “I have to live with that fact every day.”
Brazill’s mother, Polly Powell, died in 2008. In prison, Brazill earned his GED and law clerk and paralegal certifications. In July 2011, he filed a lawsuit from prison alleging his civil rights were violated when prison officials transferred him twice and put him in solitary confinement for what he claimed was retaliation for filing an earlier suit. Both were dismissed.
Grunow’s widow sued the pawn shop that sold the pistol, as well as the family friend and the Palm Beach County School Board. All cases were settled out of court for more than $1 million. Grunow also sued the maker of the gun. A jury ruled that the company had to pay $1.2 million, but that was overturned by the trial judge and an appeals court.
Friends of Barry Grunow later created a memorial “run for the money” 5K run/walk that each year awards scholarships. This year the event will be a golf tournament in October at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. Call 561-543-5541.
In 2001, a year after Grunow’s death, Florida Atlantic University dedicated a butterfly garden to the 1987 graduate. Fighting to control her emotions, Grunow’s wife, Pam, a former special education teacher, recalled how her husband delighted in the butterfly garden at their own home.
“The loved ones we grieve for are still around,” Pam Grunow said. “We can make good out of bad if we want to.”