ST. ALBANS CITY — About two years and two weeks after he walked up Lincoln Avenue with an AR-15, Jack Laplant is headed to prison — or staying there.
Attorneys in the State’s case against Laplant signed a change of plea agreement on Jan. 10, days before the scheduled start of the case’s two-week trial.
The agreement sentences Laplant to serve five to 15 years incarcerated for three counts of aggravated assault with a weapon.
That agreement also dismisses with prejudice, meaning the charges can’t be brought again, a slew of charges, including multiple counts of violating an abuse prevention order and court-ordered conditions of release.
Prosecutors charged Laplant with a new count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon the day all parties signed the plea agreement.
The added count charged that Laplant “while armed with a deadly weapon threatened to use the deadly weapon on another person” on or around Jan. 2 — the day Laplant engaged in a shooting with multiple officers of the St. Albans Police Dept.
The court calendar does not yet include a date for Laplant’s sentencing.
One count of attempted second-degree murder was among the dismissed charges. That carried a minimum sentence of 20 years and maximum of life.
Prosecutors brought that charge against Laplant 11 months after the initial charges, following a Vermont State Police investigation.
The VSP investigation included multiple visits to Lincoln Avenue by the Crime Scene Search Team, which ultimately found home damage and a bullet casing prosecutors charged was evidence that Laplant shot at the SAPD’s Lt. Jason Wetherby with intent to kill.
Wetherby was one of three SAPD officers who responded to the scene, including Michael Malinowski and former officer Jason Lawton.
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office investigated the Jan. 2 shooting due to officer involvement and did not press charges.
The VSP investigation determined Malinowski and Lawton did fire their guns during the shooting, as did Laplant, who was armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle. But investigators concluded Laplant fired first, based on SAPD body camera footage.
The key piece of evidence as to Laplant firing at Wetherby was a piece of copper retrieved from a Lincoln Avenue home, which the Vermont Forensic Laboratory determined was a .22-caliber bullet jacket that could have come from Laplant’s gun, on top of damaged vinyl siding near the house in question.
VSP investigators concluded those are evidence that Laplant shot at Wetherby, since Wetherby directly ran past the house in question at the time of the shooting.
The case’s attorneys, namely Bob Katims, Lawton’s defense counsel, and state prosecutor Deb Celis, debated whether that evidence could be legally introduced in the trial — ultimately a moot point, given the pre-trial agreement.
Police responded to Lincoln Avenue that night after callers reported a man walking the neighborhood with a rifle.
Wetherby told VSP investigators he arrived on scene in a police cruiser to see Laplant aiming the rifle at him. Wetherby said he threw the cruiser in reverse, then took cover by a nearby building, according to court affidavits.
VSP Det. Sgt. Robert McKenna noted in his affidavit that one can hear the first shot fired in Wetherby’s body cam footage. McKenna wrote the shot came as Wetherby ran east through the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Ferris Street.
The shooting did not injure any of the SAPD officers, but officers ultimately subdued Laplant after a bullet grazed his stomach, according to the affidavits.
Laplant was 26 at the time of the incident.
Neighbors told police they hear Laplant call, “Just shoot me,” to no one in particular ahead of the incident, per court affidavits.
The SAPD officers reported Laplant telling them he only fired his gun in the air and that he just wanted to die.
The shooting came the night after Laplant’s arrest on a charge he assaulted his girlfriend at the time. Laplant was reportedly in the neighborhood of her home at the time of the shooting.
Laplant has been held without bail since his January 2018 arrest.