Exclusive: Newport News woman shot twice in head by husband says system failed her

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — On January 23, Brittany Shazier, after years of domestic abuse, was shot twice in the head by her husband, who she was in the process of divorcing. Her husband, Jonathan, then turned the gun on himself and died in the couple’s home on Cabell Drive.

Amazingly, Brittany survived.

“I am very fortunate to be alive,” said Shazier. “I do believe God was there that day.”

THE SHOOTING

“I don’t remember being shot.  I  don’t remember anything that happened after that,” said Brittany who agreed to share her story with 10 On Your Side, from her room at Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital, in partnership with Select Medical.

She remembers when her husband Jonathan Shazier was being possessive, like he always was, when he hid her car keys and wallet, so she couldn’t go to work. He was controlling. Always.

She remembers how they argued in the bathroom. “He kept putting a gun in my face, so I couldn’t get out of the bathroom. He was hollering and screaming, and I was screaming let me out.”

Inside the house, the couple’s 16-year-old daughter called 911.  Brittany had been on a call with a friend who also called 911, and on that call Brittany says police could hear the shots fired.  

10 On Your Side obtained the scanner traffic for any officer in the area to respond to Cabell Drive.

The scanner audio from the dispatcher states:

“I have a female screaming in the background. I am being told that a male subject shot the female. There is also a protective order. We are trying to get the 16 year old to step away from the male subject. She is advising it is going to be her father.”   

Brittany wears the scars between life and death, two shots to the head, too many stitches to count.  There is a stitched wound running from the back of her head to the front of her chin.  

Calmly, she said, “I miss my hair.” She rubbed her fingers across her shaved head and said, “We had to shave it to get some of the bullet fragments out.  I had surgery on my brain. I’m missing part of my optical nerves in my eye.  My fingers got stitches here, and I got stitches in my head from the surgery. I have a pin in this finger because they think I blocked (the back of my head) as I  was getting shot.  I blocked my head or maybe cowered,” she explained as she put her head in her hands.

Brittany is not walking, has eye issues, but is grateful to God that she is alive. “I’m happy to wake up every morning and breath the air that I breathe.”

THE BEGINNING

The story of Jonathan Shazier and Brittany Sanchez (her maiden name) began at Woodside High School in Newport News in 2000.

Old yearbooks help piece it all together. 

In 2000, Brittany was a freshman and he was a senior.  She was a cheerleader. She was in several pictures in her freshman yearbook and in several clubs, including the Teen Helpers Club, where she and others would tutor students.

Between her sophomore and junior year she would quit cheerleading because she was pregnant with the child who would end up  making that 911 call. Brittany amazingly finished her junior and senior year in one year and graduated early.  She walked across the stage to get her diploma from Woodside.

Brittany wrote this, that appeared in the yearbook, “Sunshine is my nickname because I’m always smiling.”

However, many times in her marriage she was not smiling. She says the unhappiness began around 2016 when her career was ramping up as a realtor. She now works at Greg Garrett Realty where Greg Garrett and his employees have been beyond supportive, according to Brittany.

WARNING SIGNS

Jonathan became controlling, and in hindsight Brittany witnessed red flags:  He would say, “Don’t dress that way. Don’t talk that way. Who are you talking to? There was a lot of scrutiny. What was I doing? When are you doing it?”

Then came the first of four protective orders: two petitions for protective orders and two protective orders.

The first came March 20, 2019, “Twice I had to go for a protective order. The first time I was declined,” she remembers.

According to the court documents from Newport News Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, on  April 4, 2019 Newport News substitute Juvenile Domestic Relations Judge Nosuk Pak Kim denied the protective order.  10 On Your Side tried repeatedly to get Judge Pak Kim to return our calls and email, but she did not.

Part of the narrative for the protective order was this statement:

“(Jonathan) pushed her (Brittany) down to the floor causing bruising to the tail bone, and disconnected the battery from the car so she couldn’t leave the home.

(She states he )grabbed the keys from her, cutting her hand.  (She states he) has history of domestic abuse against her, and inappropriate sexual comments to oldest daughter.  (She states she is afraid of him.”

Brittany is also concerned with lax court requirements against Jonathan. 

“Then the second time when I went, I told them he had threatened my life since then and he had. He told me he was going to put me in a hole in the ground and nobody would ever find me, and he’s in construction and he  knew exactly where to bury me.”

Judge Rebecca Robinson granted a protective order last November to expire in May, allowing contact except no “hostile contact.”

“I felt like it should be no contact. Period. No contact at all.” Brittany felt that Jonathan should have been ordered not to return to the home.  

“They should have granted me the home, and let me and my children be,” said Brittany.  

It should be noted Jonathan owned the home. There are debt issues and Brittany and the children will not be returning to the home.  The seven children are in the custody of Jonathan’s parents.  10 On Your side went to the house, but Jonathan’s brother said they had no comment. From everything we have been told, the paternal grandparents have been nothing but caring and nurturing toward the seven children.

Brittany is also concerned that Judge Robinson allowed Jonathan to return to the home during the day, between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.  Ironically, Jonathan was allowed in the house when he shot Brittany around noon.  

“I told them I don’t get why those are the hours. Why is it not just ‘no contact?'” she said.

10 On Your Side emailed Judge Robinson to ask her these questions Brittany has, but she emailed back saying she had to check the file, and would be back in touch.

Brittany says the tipping point came eight days before the shooting, when she and Jonathan went back to court. At that time, the court did impose stricter requirements.

“I think the culmination of having to do the weekly drug tests, and having to be mandated weekly, and finally having to go to anger management. I think that was too much for him to handle,” she said.

Brittany wanted to reach out to others who may be dealing with domestic violence.

“Women need to stand up for themselves and they need to have control of their lives. I don’t think because (he was the) sole head of household that (he) gets to make all the decisions. That is not how things work.  It has got to be a partnership with the household.  In my case, it never really was. It was kind of like he was going to make the decisions because he makes all the money,” Brittany said.

In the end, Jonathan would take his own life.  It was finally over.   

“He didn’t know I was going to make it.  No one knew I was going to make it. Maybe if he did know I was going to make it,  it would be different,” said Brittany.

With amazing grace, Brittany was nearly killed, but now has nothing in her heart but forgiveness for Jonathan.

“If Jon were here, I would give him a big hug, and tell him it is going to be OK. It would be OK. He just never understood that, and there is something about mental health and awareness that needs to be addressed, because when you get to that state when you think the end is near and there is no other way out, that’s when people do drastic things that do not need to happen.”

Then, toward the end of our hour-long visit Brittany again reflected on her story as a whole.

“It’s not the best story. It is a story, and it’s my story,” she said.

Brittany’s real battle now is the future. She is unable to work. She can’t fully walk now, insurance is in limbo, and she and the children do not have a home.

They are in desperate need of financial help. Those who would like to donate can visit Brittany’s GoFundMe page.


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