LEWISTON — A local man who fired gunshots at police as he fled on foot down Howe Street last fall was sentenced Tuesday to spend five years behind bars.

Joshua R. Boyd Lewiston Police Department photo

Joshua R. Boyd, 27, of 42 Jefferson St. pleaded guilty to six related charges Tuesday, four of them felonies.

The most serious charge, aggravated attempted murder, was dismissed by prosecutors.

Lewiston police officers sat at the back of the 8th District courtroom during the hearing while Boyd participated by videoconference from Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn.

Assistant District Attorney Neil McLean told active-retired Justice Paul A. Fritzsche that a call came in early in the morning on Nov. 18, 2020, that a man had entered an apartment at 30 Howe St. where he threatened people with a gun.

The man was known by the nickname “Train.”

Cpl. Jeremy Somma was first on scene. He saw a man exit the building. Somma, who was within 10 feet of the man, ordered him to stop so he could talk to him.

The man walked backward, muttering something, then the man started running. Somma ran after him, McLean said.

Somma saw the man pull his hand from his pocket.

“We was able to observe at least two muzzle flashes and then he heard gunshots,” McLean said.

At that point, Somma “returned fire in defense of himself,” McLean said.

Then Somma lost sight of the man and called for backup to help find him.

Somma told the lead detective in the case he was “shaken up and feeling as if somebody has just made an attempt on his life to kill him,” McLean said.

Somma gave other officers a description of the man.

Police eventually tracked the man to an apartment where Boyd had gone after the shooting to take drugs and change his clothes and identified him as Boyd. He left the gun at that apartment, McLean said.

Police later found his clothes in a dumpster outside the apartment and found the gun in a hidden compartment in a bedroom bureau.

During questioning by police, Boyd had said he’d been at Howe Street to collect money and had encountered a police officer while leaving, McLean said.

Boyd had fled on foot and, while running, had reached into a pocket where he had a gun, which he knew he was forbidden from having because of a 2014 conviction for aggravated assault.

When he tried to remove the gun from his pocket, it discharged. Once it was outside his pocket, it discharged at least one more time, he told police.

Police later found shell casings in the street where Somma said he’d chased Boyd. The casings matched the recovered handgun, McLean said.

The gun turned out to have been stolen, he said.

Boyd pleaded guilty Tuesday to criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, reckless conduct with a firearm, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and violation of condition of release, all felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison.

He also pleaded guilty to falsifying physical evidence and refusing to submit to arrest or detention, both misdemeanors. Each of those charges is punishable by up to 364 days in jail.

Keeping to a plea agreement with prosecutors, Boyd was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but half of that time was suspended.

When he’s released from prison, he’ll be on probation for two years.

During probation, he’ll be barred from having or using a dangerous weapon, including firearms.

Boyd will be forbidden from having or using alcohol and illegal drugs.

He may not have contact with the person he threatened when police were initially called to Howe Street and can’t return to that address. Boyd also is prohibited from having any contact with Somma.

Defense attorney James Howaniec said Boyd had a “very, very lengthy history of mental illness and drug abuse” starting when he was a young child. He was hospitalized for mental illness at an early age and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Boyd had been abused physically and sexually as a child, Howaniec said.

Boyd underwent mental examinations to determine whether he was competent to stand trial and what his criminal responsibility was at the time of the crime.

McLean said he made the “extremely difficult decision” to dismiss the charge of aggravated attempted murder in the plea agreement after considering all of the elements — including intent — of that crime that would need to be proved at trial.

“There are very reasonable people in this room … who believe we should have proceeded” on that charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. He said he doesn’t “necessarily disagree” with those people.

McLean said he also based his decision on reaching the history of other cases involving that charge in Androscoggin County.

“The state has the utmost respect for law enforcement,” McLean said. “The victim in this case is a law enforcement officer who puts his life on the line daily.”

McLean said, “We think this conduct is very egregious. But for the professionalism, quite frankly the courage, of officer Somma, this case ends very differently for Mr. Boyd.”

Justice Fritzsche said the portrayal of police on TV and in movies showing them in regular gunfights has no basis in reality. “None whatsoever,” he said.

Law enforcement officers believe a good day, year or career is one in which a firearm is never used, he said.

“Even a person trained as an officer has to be immensely terrified … to be shot at,” he said.

Howaniec said he remembers well the death of a young Lewiston police officer who was killed in the line of duty in the 1980s at a time when Howaniec was involved in city government.

“That is the incident that resonates in this community to this day, as all police deaths do,” he said.

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