Immediately release and suspend the sentence of Daniel Pniewski, reopening the investigation into the shooting of a Woodridge, IL resident's home on June 15, 2012 he is accused of.
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Daniel Pniewski is a kind, caring man with a heart of gold. Despite struggling silently with unemployment in Illinois' current economic climate and making ends meet any way that he could by scrapping metal, taking odd jobs, and repairing/upgrading airsoft guns for friends, he continued to do all he could to support his family. His mother can not work as a nurse any longer due to her recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia, his siblings are in school or supporting families of their own and can only help so much, but Dan has always been there for them. On June 15th, 2012, he received the best news he had heard in a long, long time: He had found a good job that would allow him to support his family and build a life for himself again. Then, through the incompetent actions of the Woodridge Police Department and pure bad luck, this was all taken away from him the same evening. Below is a letter detailing the full situation as written by his loving girlfriend, Heather:
I regret to inform you that the Illinois judicial system has failed in the case of the PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS –VS- DANIEL J PNIEWSKI. Dan was arrested at 3:19 AM on June 15, 2012 at his home in Woodridge, IL. A neighbor, Jonathan Bleizzifer, of the 7600 block of Larchwood Ln. in Woodridge, IL was unfortunately the victim of gun violence around this same time. Someone unloaded multiple rounds of 0.22 caliber ammunition into his residence. This occurred sometime around 3:00 AM, but the actual time of attack is unknown. Supposedly evidence suggests that 4 shots were fired, but only 1 shell casing was recovered and this happened the day after the incident took place. The casing was found on the street semi-disfigured, possibly from being run over. Regardless, Woodridge police responded and asked Jon if he knew who owned guns in the area, to which Jon replied with Dan’s name.
Anyone who knows Dan also knows that he is a mechanical fanatic. No matter what it is, if there’s a complex mechanism of action, Dan is interested. This is true from small engines, to model-scale trains, and yes, to guns. Firearms mechanics just make sense to him. Even though he possessed a FOID card and enjoyed shooting at the range, he only owned one real gun, a 0.22 caliber rifle, which was lawfully registered through the state. His real passion, however, was in the sport of Airsoft (plastic BB guns that fire plastic BB’s). He loved the comradery of the players and was even trying to base his livelihood on repairing, refurbishing, or just altogether overhauling the airsoft guns of his peers.
On the night of his arrest, more than $500 worth of airsoft equipment that he was working on for friends and colleagues was seized along with his 0.22. In order to keep your interest in his story, I want to keep this short and to the point, but in order for you to fully understand the magnitude of this situation, I feel that I need to provide you a timeline. In the most succinct way possible, without leaving out pertinent details, I present his case. The following will detail the events which led up to the imprisonment of an innocent man, Daniel Pniewski, regardless of the fact that there is another man out there, who I will refer to simply as Adam, who had the know-how, a prior proven gun violation on his record, and a motive to commit this act. Adam rests comfortably in his home while Dan waits at DuPage County Jail to find out where his home will be in the Illinois prison system for the next 3 years.
All events in the timeline were offered by Daniel Pniewski and were verified by individuals who were with Dan that night. Names have been left out at their request to prevent any chance of hostilities.
At 2:50 AM, Dan left his home in Woodridge, IL with Christopher L., a friend of Dan’s and his younger brother. Dan had been out earlier in the night celebrating the fact that he was just offered a decent job in Joliet, and also celebrating young love (some months into a relationship with me). At this point, Chris was on his way home and Dan decided to walk and talk with him a bit. At about 3:05 AM, Dan and Chris arrived near the end of the block on 75th St. by El Burrito Loco which is about 100 yards past Walgreens which is perpendicular to the Bleizzifer household. They said their goodbyes, Chris continued home and Dan turned around to make it back to his own house. On foot, Dan couldn’t have arrived home before 3:10 or 3:15 AM. He was moving vehicles around so that his mom could get out in the morning. As he was sitting in his Chevy cobalt, 3 police vehicles arrived and Dan was arrested (documented) at 3:19 AM. One police report says they searched his vehicle because what appeared to be a rifle could be seen through the window. Another report says it was searched because Dan told them he had a gun in his car. Already, the police testimony is contradictory. Dan did not give permission to search the vehicle which was sitting in his driveway, his rifle was in a soft case under a pile of garbage in his backseat, and when questioned about weapons in the car, he replied that there was lots of Airsoft equipment in the trunk. Admittedly, my boyfriend lets trash pile up for a while before cleaning everything. The rifle was in the car because a week earlier, he was shooting it at the range and just never brought it in, but I know for a fact that it was not visible through all the junk in the backseat. How do I know? I was in that car a lot and never had a clue that the rifle was in it.
Dan didn’t know how to react to any of this. However, he was 100% compliant through all of it. He requested multiple time for a GSR (Gunshot Residue) Test to be performed. One officer went over the radio asking if they should perform it, and whoever was on the radio said that it wouldn’t be necessary. This is problem #2. If someone who is being accused of firing a weapon requests a swab willfully, why should they be denied it? The incident had occurred within minutes, apparently (even though time wasn’t released) of the arrest and gunpowder residue lingers for hours. There was no excuse to not perform the test. That, alone, would have cleared him from all of this.
When all is said and done, in lieu of the issues that occurred upon arrest, there is no physical way Dan could have committed this crime. From the records, it is indicated that the shooting occurred sometime between 3:00 AM at the earliest and 3:15 AM at the latest. Dan was with Chris until at least 3:05 AM. This is a generous estimate as the walk back generally takes much longer. He was unarmed, which can be confirmed by Chris, when they parted ways. He then had to walk home and could not have made it before 3:10 AM (which, again, is being very generous; Dan takes his time on walks). Even at a sprint and with a will, Dan would had to have retireved his gun out from under the trash, grabbed ammunition from the trunk of his Cobalt which had no functional brakes to speak of, sprinted to Jon’s to shoot the house, then sprinted back. On top of this, when the police seized everything, Dan had a full magazine. 9 rounds; he always keeps 9 rounds in the magazine because 10 puts too much tension on it. So, he would have had to do ALL of that PLUS reload his magazine, separate everything (magazinein trunk and rifle under trash in backseat) all before 3:19 AM. It isn’t possible. Beyond the realm of physics, Dan had zero motive to commit this crime. As stated earlier, he had just been hired after months of searching for work at a good paying job in Joliet and we were in the young stages of love. Does this sound like a man ready to jeopardize everything for no reason?
Jon Bleizzifer, victim to a gun violence crime, had no intent on pressing charges. Even the victim knew that Dan could not have done this. After some time, Dan was informed that the charges of misuse of a firearm were considered Nolle Pro (abandoned). He was called in to retrieve the hundreds of dollars worth of other peoples’ airsoft equipment and his 0.22 rifle. Come to find out, they sat him in an interrogation room and began questioning him about the events of that night. They were fishing, and couldn’t legally do anything, but put yourself in his situation: Imagine you’re being interrogated—asked about who shot up this house that you’re being accused of. You don’t know, so you tell them repeatedly that you DO NOT KNOW. Then the questioning officer, Officer Jody Porras of the Woodridge Police Department, tells you that if you don’t tell them something other than, “I don’t know,” they’re going to charge you with attempted homicide and you will not leave the building. Dan stated clearly, twice, that he would like his lawyer. Instead of heeding the request, the police continued to (illegally) question him. They threw a ballistics report in front of Dan stating that a (smashed) casing found on the road outside of Jon Bleizzifer’s house was a match to Dan’s 0.22 caliber rifle. I am not a ballistics expert. What I know, is that the agency who performed the analysis was contracted by the police department (not in-house) and that there is literally no set standard in this state to declare a casing a match. This equals problem #3. I want to know how definitive that analysis was and how much they could actually analyze based on a single disfigured casing, even though there were apparently multiple shots fired into the residence.
At this point, they offered up a scenario. Again, put yourself in this position. You are given an “out” to say that you were walking around doing something stupid, but not malicious. Maybe you were out shooting at a stop sign and missed and the stray went into the house. If you say that this was the case, more than likely the worst that’s going to happen to you is being charged with a misdemeanor. They purposefully gave him a scenario that would still make him guilty to the crime they were investigating, but offering hope that it wouldn’t be as big of a deal of, oh, I don’t know, ATTEMPTED MURDER. Let’s just say that if I were in that situation, I would have told them anything they wanted to hear too. It was textbook fishing, but being part of the rest of the general population, we don’t know these things. You can’t know unless you’ve been through it or know someone who has. A false confession, therefore, led to the state of Illinois pressing charges for felony aggravated discharge of a firearm AND felony reckless discharge of a firearm. Obviously, the lawyer had this so-called evidence thrown out. The catch is, that if Dan were to go to trial and testify and say literally one thing that was in the slightest contradictory to what is on record, they can bring that ‘confession’ back into play.
The worst part about all of this is that the parties involved whom I’ve talked have communicated vehemently that they know Dan was not responsible for this. Furthermore, they would not be surprised in the slightest if it was one other individual; Adam (alias, Red). In short, Adam was having an intimate affair with a local girl. She was okay with fooling around but had no interest in dating Adam. After a short period of time, she began seeing Jonathan Bleizzifer, and to my knowledge, was not officially done seeing Adam. Adam persistently harassed both of them over this fact. Adam is unstable to say the least. He was incarcerated for discharging a firearm in a residential area not too long ago and made threats of drinking bleach, made known to the girl and to Dan. Adam was the only person, other than Dan, that was even aware that Dan’s rifle was in the car. What’s more is that Adam knew Dan would be out celebrating that night. Finally, Adam was the only person with a motive to commit a heinous act against Jon Bleizzifer. All of these variables add up to nothing though, because the Woodridge Police Department never even tried to investigate that part of the situation. They were so focused on getting a quick answer for the community, that they found the first person named who has a rocky past from his teen years and built up a case on him based from no real foundation at all.
Lawyer, Brian Ruxton, stood by Dan’s side and fought for him. On January 14, 2014 however, Brian advised Dan to take the deal offered by the state: a charge of a Class IV felony and 3 years in the Illinois prison system. Because of the ballistics report and not being able to prove that Dan was not the one who pulled the trigger, Brian was convinced that the state would get their Class III felony and 85% time served (4 -15 years) penalty served if this went to trial. Since when, in this country, are people guilty until proven innocent? Our judicial system is rooted in the principle of INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. Daniel Pniewski was not proven guilty. He was railroaded until he was backed so far into a corner that he had to lie against himself to save himself from a longer sentence of incarceration.
Dan worked hard to help pay the bills at home. His mother was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and had to retire from her job as a nurse years ago. Her boyfriend of over a decade, a mechanic, helps to contribute as well. He helps take care of his younger brother and sister. His two older brothers work, but have their hands full helping to provide for his own families. I am a college student and now I am alone, forced apart from a man who treated me like I was the only person in this world who mattered to him. All of our lives have been effected by the subpar investigations of the Woodridge Police Department, the political debates of Illinois gun control, and the extremely flawed justice system. This outcome, dear reader, is not just.
I will be circulating this information to any and all parties who will read it and take interest. This story should not be kept silent. It is my hope that parties who take interest will include the NRA, the IRA, Illinois state senators, House representatives, local political office, Illinois State Governor Pat Quinn, the Woodridge Police Department, Judge George Bakalis (who oversaw Dan’s case), the DuPage County Police Department, and all aforementioned parties. If I do not see results, or at the very least, get some responses and answers, I will make sure this plea reaches the Chicagoland / suburban newspapers.
With the utmost respect and heaviest heart,
This is just one of many heartfelt pleas for justice in the case of Daniel Pniewski. I have been his close friend for the last twelve years and he has never been anything less than devout in his adherence to firearms safety practices. All state laws were thoroughly reasearched and followed when transporting his firearm at all times, I was even with him when he bought this rifle in particular. Justice must be served, the innocent freed and the guilty made to pay their debt to society for their crime. I am asking you to join me in petitioning Governor Pat Quinn in reopening this investigation and pursuing the pure, unadulterated truth so the suffering can end for all involved.
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