He thought he was being helpful, but his seemingly benign comment ended in gunfire at a Walmart.
Kevin Roberge was riding in a motorized cart through an Augusta, Maine Walmart on Monday night around 8 p.m., preparing his purchases to leave the store and head home, when he noticed a man’s shoes were untied, he told the Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel.
“I said, ‘Your boot lace is untied, and I don’t want you to trip,’” Roberge told the newspaper.
Roberge then went to wait for a taxi to take him home, he said.
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But the man with the untied shoe, identified by Augusta police as Robert Potter, 31, began to follow Roberge, according to the Bangor Daily News.
“He aggressively grabbed my arm, and I told him, ‘You better let go of my arm now,’ ” Roberge told the Journal & Morning Sentinel.
Then the situation escalated.
“He lifts up his shirt and pulls out a Glock 9 mm,” Roberge told the newspaper.
Potter should have been barred from possessing a firearm, the Journal & Morning Sentinel reports, due to a 2016 domestic violence conviction.
August police said in a briefing to reporters that Roberge then acted as a “Good Samaritan,” grabbing the gun and helping prevent anyone from getting hurt as Potter allegedly fired the gun in the shopping center.
Shoppers throughout the store were alarmed by the gun incident, according to WGME.
“It was chaos, it was complete chaos,” Brittany Gould, who was shopping in the produce section during the melee, told the TV station. “What if my kids were here with me? I can't even imagine.”
Police said at the briefing the night of the shooting that no one was hurt in the incident.
Potter was taken to Maine General Medical Center that night, according to the Boston Globe, and then remained hospitalized at an undisclosed facility.
The Bangor Daily News reported Tuesday that Potter has been charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon — a charge that carries up to five years behind bars, and a fine as high as $5,000.
“At one point during the argument, Mr. Potter brandished a firearm, pointing it at the other customer,” Deputy Police Chief Jared Mills told the Bangor Daily News. “The customer attempted to defend himself by disarming Mr. Potter, at which time one round discharged from the firearm.”
During the altercation, Roberge told the Journal & Morning Sentinel, Potter was yelling at him.
“He kept screaming, ‘get down on the ground! Get down on the ground!’ And I wouldn't get down on the ground and I wouldn't let go of the barrel of the gun,” Roberge told WABI. “I got gun powder burns on my hand.”
Police eventually showed up and instructed Potter to get to the ground, Roberge told the newspaper, ordering Potter using his military rank.
“The gentleman is a vet,” Roberge told the Journal & Morning Sentinel, which confirmed that Potter had twice been deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army. But “he wasn’t together, mentally,” Roberge added.