Not guilty plea entered for Pulaski-area bonfire suspect

Samuel Armstrong
Samuel Armstrong(Shawano County Sheriff’s Office)
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 2:23 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:35 PM CDT
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SHAWANO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A judge entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Samuel Armstrong, the young man accused of pouring a drum of a mix of diesel fuel and gas on a bonfire at a party in the Pulaski area, causing an explosion that seriously injured several people.

18-year-old Samuel Armstrong faces 13 counts of injury by negligent handling of explosives or fire; each charge carries a maximum sentence of three and a half years in prison if convicted.

One of the people injured in the bonfire incident is Brandon Brzeczkoski. He suffered second and third-degree burns on almost 40-percent of his body last October when the explosion happened.

“The complaint alleges Mr. Armstrong injured 13 victims by fire after he and another person threw a partially filled 55-gallon plastic drum containing a mix of diesel fuel and gas onto a large fire tended to all night,” Shawano County District Attorney Gregory Parker said at a previous court hearing.

According the 13-page criminal complaint, Armstrong told investigators, “he did not realize the barrel would do what it did and injure someone.”

Multiple witnesses describe a quick explosion followed by people rolling on the ground, trying to put out the fire on their clothes. Several went to the hospital for treatment, including Brandon Brzeczkoski. He spent weeks in the hospital and has undergone many surgeries over the past several months.

Samuel Armstrong appeared in person at Wednesday’s court hearing. A few of the victims and their families were in court Wednesday, including the Brzeczkowski family. None of the victims spoke, but Brandon’s mom did write a letter to the judge.

The next court appearance for Samuel Armstrong is a final pre-trial hearing, which is set for December 6 at 3:30 p.m.