His sons fought while playing pool. Dad shot one to death to save the other, cops say

A Florida father was “shattered” after he shot and killed his older son to save his younger son as they fought over a game of pool, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.

Police were called to the Stuart home just before 6 a.m. by a woman saying her older son was acting “irrational,” Sheriff William Snyder said in a Sunday afternoon news conference. A few minutes later, the woman, identified as Marie Maloney, called to say her husband shot him.

“I don’t know if there is a way I could accurately describe the look on his face,” Snyder said of the 56-year-old father, John Maloney. “I am not sure what the dad could have done.”

According to Snyder, witnesses told detectives that 30-year-old Joseph Maloney had been acting “irrational” for about eight hours. Detectives also learned that Joseph and his 26-year-old brother James had been drinking alcohol throughout the night.

“The physical altercation began over a game of pool then escalated into the violent attack of one brother on another,” Snyder said.

John Maloney told police he “verbally intervened” and tried to get Joseph off of James but he wasn’t able to, Snyder said.

“At one point the parents heard their younger son pleading for his brother to stop choking him because he could not breathe,” Snyder said. “His brother continued to strangle his sibling with one arm, while holding a knife over him with his other hand.”

After trying to stop Joseph Maloney from hurting James any more, John fired his revolver, hitting Joseph several times, according to Snyder. Joseph died in the home. The house clearly looked like there had been a violent struggle, with broken pool sticks and an open butterfly knife, Snyder said.

“The physical evidence and the witness statements indicate that at the time of the incident, Mr. Maloney believed that the deadly use of force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to his younger son,” Snyder said.

As of Sunday night John Maloney had not been charged in the shooting.

“Based on the circumstances that we think we have now...he would be justified in using deadly force,” Snyder said. “What you actually have is self-defense for someone else.”

Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.