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Thursday, May 19, 2022
<p>Jude Rizzo, 21, right, sits with his 19-year-old brother, Joel Rizzo, at McAlister’s Deli. Jude told police he shot and killed his roommate, Michael Crace, in self-defense on April 2.</p>

Jude Rizzo, 21, right, sits with his 19-year-old brother, Joel Rizzo, at McAlister’s Deli. Jude told police he shot and killed his roommate, Michael Crace, in self-defense on April 2.

Jude Rizzo can’t sleep. He hasn’t for the past 11 days, he said. He doesn’t want to eat. He keeps thinking about that April night: The night he killed his roommate.

The images come back when he closes his eyes: running down the stairs, finding Michael Crace dead, kicking the pistol away, calling police, getting handcuffed, being questioned, being asked to rehash the night. He just wants to forget, he said. But he can’t. His younger brother, Joel, can’t either.

“It’s crazy,” Jude said. “This is a position you never want to be in in your life.”

Gainesville Police said Jude, 21, a nursing student at Santa Fe College, shot Michael Crace, 20, three times near the chest in self-defense on April 2. They were in their apartment at Mill Run Condominiums, located off Southwest 20th Avenue.

Jude Rizzo has not been charged, though the case remains open as detectives await Crace’s autopsy results, said GPD spokeswoman Cpl. Angelina Valuri. That could take months.

Tabitha Hardy, one of Crace’s former co-workers at Moe’s Southwest Grill, said Crace and the Rizzo brothers did not get along. Crace wanted to fight them, Hardy said. They weren’t paying rent, she said.

But Jude insists this isn’t true. They were friends. He met Crace four months ago — their girlfriends were roommates. Jude said he and Crace liked each other from the beginning, and Jude moved in with him in February.

They worked out together at Powerhouse Gym on West University Avenue. He, Crace and their girlfriends liked to watch movies together.

The week before Crace died, though, Jude said he changed. One day, Crace pointed his gun at his girlfriend, Jude said. Nobody called police. Jude wishes they did.

“That’s the one thing we’re all thinking,” he said. “The cops should have been involved beforehand.”

On the day he was killed, Crace appeared pale and sick at work, Hardy said. When he got home, Crace argued with his girlfriend. She left.

Jude said he drove with Crace to Cottage Grove, where the pair’s girlfriends lived. The couple argued again, and Jude heard Crace’s girlfriend screaming. This time Crace was on top of her, Jude said.

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After the fight broke up, Crace took his girlfriend’s keys and forced her into her car before driving to Mill Run. Joel, 19, was also there. From Crace’s room, he heard Crace’s girlfriend screaming. He was choking her, Jude said.

Joel helped Crace’s girlfriend back to her car. Later that night, Jude said he talked with Crace — told him he needed to cut the violence. They argued.

Jude went back to his room on the second floor. He packed boxers. He was going to spend the night with his girlfriend.

Michael was standing in the front yard. He had just updated his Facebook status: “.38.” He opened the front door and pointed his pistol at Joel, who was sitting on the stairs. Joel screamed.

“My brother thought he was dead,” Jude said. “He told me he was warning me. He wanted me to leave.”

Jude grabbed his revolver from his nightstand. He bought the gun about a year ago for protection, but he had never shot it before — not even at a range.

He ran to the top of the stairs. Joel was running toward him, Crace chasing him. Jude didn’t think. He pulled the trigger.

“When I came out, [Joel] jumped, thinking the gunshot was from Michael,” Jude said.

After his first shot, Jude’s “mind went black.” He doesn’t remember snapping the trigger two more times.

Last week, some co-workers from McAlister’s Deli helped Jude clean the apartment, but he hasn’t been back since. He can’t bring himself through that front door, where Crace’s body blocked the police officers’ entrance 11 nights ago.

But he still sees everything. The images keep coming back.

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@alligator.org.

Jude Rizzo, 21, right, sits with his 19-year-old brother, Joel Rizzo, at McAlister’s Deli. Jude told police he shot and killed his roommate, Michael Crace, in self-defense on April 2.

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