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Ascutney Man Pleads Not Guilty in Shooting

White River Junction — An Ascutney man has pleaded not guilty to allegedly firing shots at another man during an alleged drug deal at the commuter parking area in Hartland.

Justin Paquette, 25, faces two felony charges of aggravated assault with a weapon in connection with the incident. He also faces a felony charge of selling narcotics and a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment for allegedly firing a shotgun in the direction of Interstate 91. He pleaded not guilty to all four charges.

Paquette faces a maximum sentence of 26 years in prison if convicted.

On July 2, a witness contacted Vermont State Police to report gun shots at the commuter lot off Interstate 91 at Exit 9 in Hartland, according to a police affidavit. The witness told officers that she saw a truck and another car pull into the parking lot around 7 p.m. The witness saw a man, who was later identified as Cody Barton, approach the truck and begin to speak with the driver.

A few minutes later, the witness heard several gun shots and saw Barton run across the parking lot, through the trees and onto the Exit 9 off ramp.

The witness said she saw the man in the truck, who police later identified as Paquette, walk to the edge of the parking lot with a “long gun” and shoot at Barton, according to a police report.

Another vehicle sped out of the parking lot and went the wrong way on the off ramp, picked up Barton and then continued in the wrong direction on the interstate, according to the witness. Paquette then drove south on Route 5 toward Windsor, according to the police report.

When officers arrived at the commuter lot, they found a 16-gauge shotgun casing on the ground and footprints in the mud where the witness had seen Barton run, according to police. The witness said the truck was white with a black net on the back instead of a tailgate.

Later that evening, Windsor Police found a truck matching that description parked at a convenience store. Shotgun ammunition was visible on the seat and police determined that Paquette was the operator, according to the report.

Paquette told police that he had parked at the commuter lot to drink a beer on his way home from work, according to the police report.

Paquette alleged that a man named Cody Barton got out of a vehicle, pointed a silver revolver at him, and then somebody allegedly grabbed him from behind and punched him in the head. Paquette said he was able to escape and alleged that Barton fired two shots at him while he was running away. Paquette also told officers that he grabbed his shotgun and fired one shot at the ground.

Paquette told officers that he knew Barton through mutual friends, and told officers that he had previously abused prescription drugs, but claimed now to be “clean and sober,” according to the police report.

The police report alleges that Paquette provided false information several times. Paquette denied that the incident was drug related and told officers he did not know why Barton turned a gun on him.

A trooper met with Barton at the Shady Lawn Motel in White River Junction, where he was living. According to the police report, Barton said he went to the commuter to buy pills from Paquette. Barton told police that “the money wasn’t right,” and Paquette allegedly got angry and started to shoot. Barton told police that he never shot at Paquette and didn’t have a gun on him, according to the police report. When officers asked Barton why he didn’t report the incident to authorities, Barton said, “We were there to buy pills.”

Barton also told officers that he did not have enough money to purchase the pills, according to a police report, and was about $15 short. Barton alleged that he had advised Paquette that he was short on cash, and that Paquette said that was fine.

But when Barton paid Paquette and began walking away with the pills, Paquette allegedly got out of his truck and fired at Barton, blowing the hat off his head as Barton ran toward the interstate, according to a police report.

Deputy Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said no charges have been referred to the office regarding Cody Barton.

Paquette was released and has a status conference scheduled for Nov. 26. Paquette could not be reached for comment.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.