AUGUSTA — Two bullets entered Jean Fournier’s back, one of them put three good-sized holes in his heart, the other came to rest close to his spine, paralyzing him and ultimately causing his death, a state medical examiner testified Thursday in the murder trial of Gage Dalphonse.

Prosecutors and police say Dalphonse, 23, of Auburn fired those two shots, in the Auburn Walmart parking lot July 27, 2019. Authorities say Fournier was shot while walking or running away following a brief confrontation with Dalphonse, who was behind the wheel of his parked Volkswagen hatchback.

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

Dalphonse’s attorneys acknowledge he fired those shots but sought to show, in cross examination of witnesses Thursday and in their opening statements Wednesday, that he shot the much-larger Fournier in self-defense.

Some of the friends and family of Fournier who gathered in the courtroom cringed as video footage of the shooting was shown in the courtroom. Some of them cried and left the courtroom, briefly, as photographs taken of his autopsy were shown and explained by Dr. Kristin Sweeney, a forensic pathologist with the state Office of Chief Medical Examiner.

Sweeney, with photographs up on a television screen showing jurors two red dots several inches apart on Fournier’s back, described how the bullets fired by Dalphonse entered Fournier’s back. She said the bullets entered around the middle of his back, traveling from right to left, in an upward direction. She cited the cause of death, following her autopsy of the 41-year-old Turner resident, as gunshot wounds to the trunk, or chest area, of his body.

Fournier’s girlfriend Tara Nguyen testified she looked up, after Keelin White of Portland, a friend of Fournier’s, ran by her and yelled “he’s got a gun!” She turned her head and saw Fournier clinch his arms to his chest and collapse to the pavement. She said she started to run to him, but Dalphonse, who was standing over Fournier, pointed the gun at her, so she stayed back until a police officer intervened.

Video footage from Walmart security cameras showed two men, identified as White and Fournier, approach Dalphonse’s car, White trailing behind Fournier. Then the footage showed the pair appearing to turn and run away from the car, with Fournier collapsing to the ground just behind it.

Asia Nguyen of Auburn, Tara Nguyen’s niece, who at the time lived with the pair, testified that they and their children had gone to the beach that day and went to Walmart, in separate vehicles, to get things to have a barbecue.

She had parked toward the front of the parking lot and Fournier and Tara Nguyen parked toward the rear when, Asia Nguyen testified, Tara yelled “look who it is!” as a car driven by Dalphonse drove by. She said Dalphonse called Tara a whore or slut, she didn’t recall which insult, then drove to the next aisle over and parked.

Fournier then followed after him on foot and, Asia Nguyen said, tried to get Dalphonse to apologize to his girlfriend. Instead, Dalphonse called Fournier a bitch, she testified.

Asia Nguyen testified she didn’t see anything initially because she was busy putting her kids in the car.

“The next thing I heard was gunshots,” she said. During her testimony she had to pause to dab at the tears in her eyes.

Her 911 call was played in court, with her screaming that her aunt’s boyfriend had just been shot, was in the parking lot and not breathing.

“The kid that just shot him is holding the gun,” she told the dispatcher on the call. “He’s standing right next to him. He shot him twice. They’re doing CPR.”

Dalphonse and Tara Nguyen had worked together at an area nursing home and had a dispute at that time. They came across each other randomly in the parking lot of Walmart that day, testimony indicated. Dalphonse and a friend with him in the car that day had been target practicing at a gun range earlier.

Tara Nguyen testified she did not hear Dalphonse say anything to her when he drove by.

However Fournier apparently did and went to Dalphonse’s car, which he parked in an adjacent aisle where he initially remained in the car. She said she yelled to Fournier, telling him “to come back to the car and forget it,” just before she heard two shots. She said at first she thought the shots were from a paintball gun, but turned out to be from Dalphonse’s 9-millimeter handgun.

Defense attorney James Howaniec, who in his opening statements Wednesday said Dalphonse acted in self defense, emphasized the bullets were traveling upwards, which he’s said Wednesday conflicts with the state’s version of the incident.

Howaniec questioned how Sweeney and Dr. Elizabeth Bundock, a forensic pathologist from Vermont with expertise in neuropathology Sweeney emailed to assist in the case, could be sure that Fournier was paralyzed by one of the two bullets that entered his body.

He criticized them for not considering the velocity of the bullet, saying that other research indicated someone could be paralyzed by a gunshot that does not penetrate the spinal column only if it were a high velocity bullet.

Bundock testified that while neither of the bullets entered Fournier’s spinal chord it still caused so much trauma it was so badly damaged it would not have been able to transmit signals from Fournier’s brain down his spine and would have left him paralyzed from the torso down.

Joseph Moscetto of Auburn, a witness to the shooting who was sitting nearby in the passenger seat of an SUV while his wife shopped inside Walmart, testified he saw Fournier outside Dalphonse’s car and the two appeared to have a conversation that initially looked friendly to him, until it escalated.

He said Fournier was right by Dalphonse’s car’s driver-side window then started to walk away, heading back across the parking lot, when Moscetto saw a couple of flashes and heard two sounds that sounded like a cap gun as Fournier was walking away. He said the driver, Dalphonse, had his arm out the window, holding something he couldn’t make out that was pointed at Fournier.

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