3 accused of attempted robbery after shooting in parking lot of Claremont Walmart

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 10-07-2022 3:06 AM

NEWPORT — Three New Hampshire men were ordered held without bail as they face charges in an alleged attempted robbery and shooting of a fourth man in the parking lot of Walmart in Claremont on Wednesday afternoon, according to officials.

The three men — all teenagers — allegedly drove from Keene, N.H., to Claremont to rob a 19-year-old man of marijuana and money as he was in a parked car in the parking lot. When the man fought back, the gun of one of the assailants discharged, wounding the victim in the leg before the group sped off and were caught by police a few miles away on Charlestown Road, a prosecutor told a court on Thursday.

The victim, who was a passenger in the vehicle with a female driver, was identified in court papers only by initials K.D. and was treated for “serious but non-life threatening injuries,” Claremont police said in a news release.

The assailants were identified as Denzil Bruce, 19, of Keene, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery, conspiracy to commit criminal threatening with a deadly weapon, first-degree assault and reckless conduct with a deadly weapon; and Xzavier Gilbeau, 18, of Troy, N.H., and Emil Ortiz, 18, of Keene, each of whom have been charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery and conspiracy to commit criminal threatening with a deadly weapon.

All three suspects were arraigned in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport on Thursday via video conference from Sullivan County House of Corrections in Unity, where Judge Martin Honigberg granted the state’s request to hold them on preventive detention.

Bruce told police after this arrest Thursday that the suspects hatched a plan over Facetime to meet the victim in the Walmart parking lot in Claremont and to rob him of marijuana but the plot backfired when the victim fought off Bruce, according to an affidavit by Claremont Police Officer Denis O’Sullivan filed in support of the charges in Sullivan Superior Court.

In interviews with the police, the suspects said that they along with two minors — the 15-year old minors are listed in the affidavit with the same last initial and identical birth dates — were all together in a vehicle when they pulled up alongside the victim’s car parked in the middle of the Walmart parking lot, according to the affidavit.

Ortiz told police that he knew the victim from high school and that he and his alleged accomplices went to Claremont with the intention to “do something stupid to make money” by stealing from the people they were meeting. When they arrived at the parking lot the older teenagers got out of the car and Ortiz approached the driver’s-side window where a woman was behind the wheel and Bruce approached the passenger’s side where the victim was sitting, the affidavit said.

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Bruce and Ortiz differed slightly in the accounts they gave to the police, according to the affidavit, but both agreed that Bruce with a handgun approached the male passenger in the car — Bruce said he opened the door and got into the back seat of the car and Ortiz said Bruce opened the front passenger side door — and that the gun discharged when Bruce and the victim got into a struggle over the gun.

The victim told police that the gun went off when he pushed Bruce out of the car and the woman behind the wheel hit the accelerator and sped away. The driver — who also is not identified in the affidavit — then drove to an address in Claremont where the victim received “home medical care” for his gun wounds “until the pain from his foot became intolerable and (they) called for emergency medical attention,” the affidavit said.

Meanwhile, after the gun discharged, the alleged assailants got back into their vehicle and drove away and headed south on Charlestown Road, according to police. A witness who was in the Walmart parking lot at the time of the incident called police, who a few minutes later pulled over the alleged assailant’s vehicle without incident, police said.

Court-appointed defense lawyers, in arguing for the defendants to be released on bail, said their clients did not have the criminal histories to suggest they are an ongoing threat to the community.

Don Topham, a staff attorney with the New Hampshire Public Defender’s office representing Ortiz, said his client is “an 18-year-old young man who not only doesn’t have criminal conviction, he’s never been arrested before. And, quite frankly speaking, he’s terrified.”

Tony Hutchins, the public defender representing Bruce, said his client lives with his grandmother in New Hampshire, “has no adult criminal conviction whatsoever,” pays child support and has an interview for a job lined up next week at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Keene.

“We’re talking teenagers here. My client’s a teenager, as are all the others in this case,” Hutchins said.

(Gilbeau did not have an attorney representing him during the hearing).

But Christine Hilliard, a Sullivan County attorney prosecuting the case, argued that all three defendants demonstrated malice aforethought and recklessness.

“This group of individuals got together, they agreed they were going to travel together from Cheshire County to Sullivan County with the intent of stealing from (the victim) and they brought guns to do so,” she said. “... This is at 2:45 on a Wednesday afternoon in a crowded Walmart parking lot. This was not in the middle of nowhere. This is not in the middle of the night. There were a ton of people there.”

Honigberg, although acknowledging the “record is limited at this time,” said there was enough evidence to indicate their release into the community represented too high a risk.

Outside the courtroom after the hearing a woman who identified herself as Gilbeau’s mother but declined to give her name, was huddled and crying with family members.

“This is not my son,” she cried. “They are teenagers. He’s not been raised this way,” she said before exiting the courthouse.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

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