MANCHESTER — A mid-level drug dealer who fired a bullet at a Manchester police officer last year was sentenced Monday to 20 to 80 years at New Hampshire State Prison.
Garrett Gauthier, 22, was being chased through a Silver Street residential neighborhood April 12, 2013, when he turned and fired a bullet toward Aaron Brown, a 10-year veteran of the force. Brown was about 20 feet away; he ducked, moved toward a shed and returned fire.
Manchester police officers fill half a courtroom at Hillsborough County Superior Court-North on Monday to see Garrett Gauthier sentenced for trying to kill a Manchester police officer. (MARK HAYWARD / UNION LEADER)
Neither was hit, and Gauthier was later apprehended. He had tossed away three handguns during the foot chase. Police discovered 256 Oxycodone pills and $1,730 in cash on him when he eventually surrendered.
In January, Gauthier pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including attempted murder, drug trafficking, resisting arrest and falsifying evidence. Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson also issued several suspended sentence, which can be reinstated if Gauthier does not behave once he is released from prison.
People who shoot at a police officer have spun themselves into a world of punishment they can't imagine, Abramson said.
The sentence is the first of two scheduled this week for people who put a Manchester police officer in danger. Today, Chris Varigianis is expected to appear in the same courthouse and receive a seven-year sentence for driving a car at a police detective last June.
After the hearing, Brown said he was satisfied with the sentence and has no second thoughts about police work.
"It's the inherent danger in the job we all agree to and understand," he said. Brown said he remembers ducking once Gauthier turned toward him. At that moment, he thought about his wife and children never seeing him again, he said.
Gauthier's lawyer, Andrew Winters, said his client only fired once, compared to Myles Webster, who hit Manchester police officer Dan Doherty with seven bullets in 2012. Doherty survived, and Webster is serving a 60-year sentence in prison.
In the courtroom, Gauthier apologized to Brown.
"I'm grateful no one was hurt that day," he said, "I was not myself and under the influence of a lot of drugs."
In paperwork filed before the hearing, Winters disclosed that Gauthier had come into a significant amount of money when he turned 21 and could access his share of a medical malpractice award. The award involved Gauthier's father, Toby Gauthier, who died when Gauthier was 13.
The paperwork does not disclose the amount of the award, but it said Gauthier spent extravagantly, at one point buying his aunt a $30,000 automobile.
The prosecution was handled by Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance, who noted Gauthier was on probation last April. He wore a tactical shirt, which allowed him to carry three firearms, LaFrance said.
"The defendant that day was ready for battle," she said. She called him a mid-level drug dealer.
Police Chief David Mara; Brown's mother, Claudette Brown, Brown's wife, Julia Brown, and Brown all addressed Abramson.
"He lived his life with both middle fingers erected to society," Aaron Brown said of Gauthier. "In all honesty, I — a policeman — was nothing to him."