MANCHESTER — Garrett Gauthier, 22, Thursday admitted shooting at Manchester Police Officer Aaron Brown last April 12, after fleeing police who had stopped a vehicle in which Gauthier was a passenger.
Gauthier entered a guilty plea in Hillsborough County Superior Court North to attempted murder for firing one bullet that missed Brown, and nine other charges involving drugs, guns and his flight.
Gauthier will be sentenced in 45 days and Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance has proposed a maximum sentence of 20 to 80 years in prison on the attempted murder plea, with the minimum a 15- to 40-year sentence. The proposed sentences and fines on the remaining pleas would be suspended for good behavior. If imposed, the sentences would be consecutive.
Detective Brown, family members, Police Chief David Mara and dozens of Brown’s fellow officers were in the courtroom of Judge Gillian Abramson for the plea.
If Abramson rejects the terms, Gauthier can withdraw his pleas and go to trial.
LaFrance described what happened in the area of Wilson and Somerville streets at mid-morning Friday, April 12, 2013. She said Brown pulled over a minivan with a defective taillight and while the driver identified himself correctly, the passenger appeared nervous and couldn’t provide an address. He gave Brown his correct date of birth, but identified himself as Garrett Grant.But while Brown was back at his marked vehicle checking the information, Officer Eric Desmarais arrived as backup and Gauthier took off running.
LaFrance said the officers ran after Gauthier, calling to him to stop.
He didn’t stop, so Brown, who knows the area, sought to take a route to cut off Gauthier.Brown called out to Gauthier: “Stop. Show me your hands.” Gauthier spun around. “He was holding a black semiautomatic handgun,” said LaFrance, and Brown saw Gauthier raise the gun, point it at him and fire. The two men were between 20 to 30 feet apart.“(Brown) felt the concussion from the blast,” said LaFrance, who said the bullet from the Beretta 9 mm gun landed behind Brown. Brown then fired two shots at Gauthier. Both Brown and Desmarais then continued to pursue Gauthier, who finally responded to commands at Silver and Lincoln streets, about a block from where the chase began. LaFrance said: “(Gauthier) went to the ground on his stomach.” During his flight, Gauthier had discarded three loaded handguns, including the one he used to shoot at Brown. When he was caught, said LaFrance, he had in his possession 256 oxycodone pills, $800 in cash in his wallet and $930 in a roll secured by a black hairband in his pocket.
LaFrance said he also was found with suboxone in his sleeve.
“He didn’t want to be caught with guns and drugs,” said LaFrance.
Although Gauthier had a probation violation pending at the time and had previous convictions for theft by unauthorized taking and drug possession, his attorney, Andrew Winters, said: “There were traumatic events in his life that led him down this path ... to this poor judgment.”
Winters said he hopes the information he will submit to the judge prior to sentencing will help make clear Gauthier’s potential for a positive future.
LaFrance said sentencing is part punishment and part general deterrence. When someone fires a gun at a police officer, it is not just at the individual officer, she said, “but at police officers in general.”
Chief Mara was satisfied with the guilty plea and sentence recommendations. “We’re in agreement with it,” he said. “If you shoot at a police officer, you are going to be appropriately prosecuted.” Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty, who was seriously wounded March 21, 2012, when he was shot seven times at close range by Myles Webster, during a pursuit in which Webster fired at several other targets on the West Side, was in the courtroom Thursday. It was the same courtroom where a jury found Webster, 23, guilty of attempted murder, robbery, reckless conduct and resisting arrest just over a year ago.
Abramson sentenced Webster in January 2013 to 60 years to life in prison.