Shooter on trial for murder punched before shooting Turner’s man, testimony says

Gage Dalphonse, 23, of Auburn, listens to lawyers make opening statements Wednesday at the start of his murder trial at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

AUGUSTA – Gage Dalphonse shot Jean Fournier twice after Fournier punched him in the face and reached into Dalphonse’s car to try to unlock the door, according to testimony on Friday from Dalphonse’s best friend who was with him in the car at the time.

Dalphonse, 23, is on trial for the murder of Fournier, 41, in the Auburn Walmart parking lot in 2019.

Defghan Zitsch, who was sitting in the passenger seat of Dalphonse’s Volkswagen GTI with Dalphonse at the wheel when the shooting took place, testified on the third day of the trial on Friday. Zitsch said that following a brief verbal confrontation, Fournier punched Dalphonse in the face, leaving him stunned but still conscious. Fournier then reached the car and appeared to be trying to unlock and open the car door, he said.

Zitsch said he believed Fournier did it to get Dalphonse out of the car and give him a beating. Dalphonse had already told Fournier’s girlfriend to “shut up (expletive)”.

“I thought he was going to get Gage out of the car,” Zitsch said, when questioned by one of Dalphonse’s defense attorneys James Howaniec, what he thought Fournier was going to do. “They weren’t really going to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’. I thought Gage was going to get beaten up.

Zitsch later said he believed little Dalphonse was in danger because of the much bigger Fournier. Zitsch described Dalphonse as his best friend. The two had been in high school and worked together in a retirement home.

He said Fournier’s punch threw Dalphonse towards the passenger seat, bleed him and left Dalphonse momentarily dazed.

Zitsch said that when Fournier next reached the interior of the car, Dalphonse pulled out a gun. He said Fournier shouted “Gun, run!” Fournier and Keelin White, Fournier’s friend who was right behind him, turned around and started running. Then Dalphonse fired. Zitsch said he appeared to be targeting Fournier.

“After they fled, he fired,” Zitsch said. “He kind of leaned out the window a bit and fired. “

Fournier was hit by two bullets in the back, one of which paralyzed him, police said, and fell on the sidewalk just behind the car.

Zitsch said they got out of the car and at one point Dalphonse put the gun back in the car. He said Dalphonse then approached Fournier, who was bleeding profusely, and tried to help him, removing his shirt to use it to apply pressure to his gunshot wounds. He told Zitsch to call 911.

Later, while sitting on a nearby sidewalk, Zitch said he asked his friend “What have you done?”

He did not answer.

Harry Moore, who is now retired but at the time a Lisbon police sergeant, was off duty and was putting his bags in his truck after shopping at Walmart when he heard two knocks of fire.

He went to the area of ​​the parking lot where the shooting sounds were coming from and saw Fournier on the sidewalk, a few people around him. He said his main concern was who the shooter was and where the gun was. After not getting many responses from the people around Fournier, he noticed Dalphonse and Zitsch standing on a nearby median, and Dalphonse met his eyes and approached him.

“He said he told her to leave him alone, he kept telling her to back off and leave him alone,” Moore said of what Dalphonse first told him. “I asked, ‘Did you see what happened?’ And he said, ‘I told him to back off and leave me alone.’ “

Moore said he then asked Dalphonse if he was the shooter and he said yes. At the time, Dalphonse was shirtless and Moore saw a holster in the front belt of his shorts and dried blood on both of his hands. He later said that Dalphonse raised his lip and showed him a cut, and that he saw some blood on his face, and Dalphonse told Moore that Fournier hit him in the car and the had knocked.

The couple had parked in the Walmart parking lot around 7 p.m. on July 27, 2019, as Zitsch had left his car there earlier that day and drove with Dalphonse to the Top Gun shooting range in Poland where they shot on targets with a semi-automatic 9mm Glock. gun. They had collected the weapons earlier in the day from a safe in Dalphonse’s house. They were coming back from the shooting range and looking for Zitsch’s car when they happened to pass Fournier, whom neither of them knew, and Tara Nguyen. Zitsch said that at some point after shooting at the shooting range and before arriving at Walmart, Dalphonse reloaded the pistol, which had a clip of 15 shots.

Dalphonse and Tara Nguyen had worked together in a nursing home in the area and had had a dispute at the time.

Zitsch said as they walked past the Nguyen couple, who testified at trial on Thursday, called Dalphonse “a slut.” He said that’s when Dalphonse called her a whore and told her to shut her mouth. They continued driving and pulled into another driveway, where Fournier, on foot, approached the car and asked Dalphonse to apologize. Zitsch said Dalphonse refused to apologize to Nguyen, but said he would apologize to Fournier. Fournier, with White behind him, was at the car for about 19 seconds before the shooting, Walmart security footage showed.

Private Ryan Phillips testified that he found a cartridge case on the ground on the driver’s side of the car, and other police officers found another cartridge case in the parking lot. A box of ammunition was in the pocket of the car door.

Kimberly James, a senior laboratory scientist who oversees the gun unit at Maine State Crime Laboratory, said gunshot residue found on the car indicated that it was very likely the gun was fired with its barrel near the back of the pillar between the front and the back. the Windows.

The trial, which is scheduled to continue on Monday, has been moved to Kennebec County for administrative reasons, according to Judge William Stokes, who is presiding over the trial.

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