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 Friday from Dalphonse’s best friend who was with him in the car at the time.

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, 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 Friday. Zitsch said that following a brief verbal confrontation, Fournier punched Dalphonse in the face, leaving him dazed but still conscious. Fournier then reached into the car and appeared to be trying to unlock and open the car door, he said.

Zitsch said he believed Fournier did so in order to remove Dalphonse out of the car and deliver a beating. Dalphonse had earlier told Fournier’s girlfriend to “shut your (expletive) whore mouth.”

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

Zitsch later said he thought the diminutive Dalphonse was in danger from the much-larger Fournier. Zitsch described Dalphonse as his best friend. The two had been in high school and worked in a nursing home together.

He said Fournier’s punch knocked Dalphonse toward the passenger seat, made him bleed and left Dalphonse momentarily dazed.

Zitsch said when Fournier then reached inside the car, Dalphonse pulled out a gun. He said Fournier yelled “Gun, run!” Fournier and Keelin White, Fournier’s friend who was just behind him, both turned and started running. Then Dalphonse shot. Zitsch said he appeared to be aiming toward Fournier.

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

Fournier was struck by two bullets in his back, one of which police said paralyzed him, and dropped to the pavement just behind the car.

Zitsch said they got out of the car and at some point Dalphonse put the gun back into the car. He said Dalphonse then went up to the heavily bleeding Fournier and tried to help him, taking off his shirt to use it to apply pressure to his gunshot wounds. He told Zitsch to call 911.

Later, while sitting on a curb nearby, Zitch said he asked his friend “What did you do?”

He didn’t respond.

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

He went to the area of the parking lot where the shooting sounds had come from and saw Fournier on the pavement, a few people around him. He said his main concern was finding out who was the shooter and where was the weapon. After not getting much response from the people around Fournier, he noticed Dalphonse and Zitsch standing on a median nearby, and Dalphonse locked eyes and walked up to him

“He said he told him to leave him alone, he kept telling him 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 waistband of his shorts, and dried blood on both his hands. He later said Dalphonse pulled up his lip and showed him a cut, and he saw a little bit of blood on his face, and Dalphonse told Moore that Fournier had reached in the car and hit him.

The pair had pulled into the Walmart parking lot around 7 p.m. July 27, 2019, because Zitsch had left his car there earlier in the day and rode with Dalphonse to Top Gun shooting range in Poland where they shot at targets with a 9 mm Glock semiautomatic handgun. They’d gotten the guns earlier in the day from a safe at Dalphonse’s house. They had returned from the shooting range and were looking for Zitsch’s car when they happened to drive past Fournier, whom neither of them knew, and Tara Nguyen. Zitsch said at some point after shooting at the range and before getting to Walmart, Dalphonse had reloaded the gun, which had a 15-shot clip.

Dalphonse and Tara Nguyen had worked together at an area nursing home and had a dispute at that time.

Zitsch said as they passed the couple Nguyen, who testified in the trial Thursday, called Dalphonse a “bitch.” He said that’s when Dalphonse called her a whore and told her to shut her mouth. They continued driving, and parked in another aisle, where Fournier, on foot, approached the car and demanded that Dalphonse 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 took place, Walmart security video footage indicated.

Trooper Ryan Phillips testified he found one bullet casing on the floor of the driver’s side of the car, and other police found another casing in the parking lot. A box of ammunition was in the car’s door pocket.

Kimberly James, senior laboratory scientist who supervises the firearms unit at the Maine State Crime Laboratory, said residue from the gunshots found on the car indicated it was most likely the gun was shot with its muzzle near the rear of the pillar between the front and rear windows.

The trial, which is expected to continue Monday, was moved to Kennebec County for administrative reasons, according to Justice William Stokes, who is presiding over the trial.

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