A Greensboro man pleaded not guilty Monday to murder in a dispute that began when a man who was later shot was not allowed to buy beer because a clerk thought he was too drunk.
“All for helping a store clerk get him out of the store,“ Daryl Johnson told police at the shooting scene, according to a court filing made public Monday.
“I know the kid. I worked with him at Gravel Construction, and I worked side by side with him,” Johnson told police about Robert Chaplin, the 27-year-old man he’s charged with killing. “He wasn’t a bad kid.”
Johnson, 51, entered not guilty pleas Monday afternoon in Orleans County Superior criminal court in Newport to a charge of second-degree murder and to the offense of manslaughter in Chaplin’s death Oct. 20.
While Johnson is charged with both offenses, Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett said Monday he could only be convicted of one. Kelly Green, the attorney representing Johnson, could not immediately be reached Monday for comment.
Judge Lisa Warren ordered Johnson be held in custody without bail until an evidentiary hearing is held.
Vermont State Police arrested Johnson on Friday evening after investigating the shooting for more than a week. Johnson claimed self-defense.
State police have said that Chaplin, who lived in East Hardwick, went to the Hardwick Convenience Store and Deli to try to buy alcohol, but a clerk told Chaplin he was too intoxicated to buy more liquor.
Johnson, who was in the store at the time, stepped into the dispute between Chaplin and the clerk, according to police. About 90 minutes later, Chaplin showed up at Johnson’s residence in Greensboro, where a confrontation ended in the shooting.
The second-degree murder charge alleges that Johnson acted “with an intent to kill, or intent to do great bodily harm, or a wanton disregard for the likelihood death or great bodily harm would result.”
The other charge simply alleges Johnson “committed manslaughter by causing the unlawful death of Robert Chaplin.”
Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of up to life in prison. Manslaughter is punishable by not less than one year in jail and no more than 15 years.
A 14-page affidavit filed in the case by Detective Sgt. Francis LaBombard of the Vermont State Police was released following Johnson’s arraignment Monday, shedding more light on the shooting and the events leading up to it.
According to that affidavit, interviews and surveillance video show that Chaplin had gone into the store on the evening of Oct. 20 and tried to buy a 12-pack of Bud Light beer, and after paying for it, left the counter and spoke to another customer in the store.
According to the filing, the clerk then summoned Chaplin back to the counter, and on the store video, Chaplin and the clerk can both be seen pulling on the 12-pack of beer before Chaplin let go.
LaBombard wrote that Johnson can then be seen on the video shoving Chaplin through the store’s doors and continuing to shove Chaplin into the parking lot.
“Johnson eventually shoves Chaplin all the way around the store to the back parking lot area,” LaBombard’s affidavit said, later adding, “At no point can Chaplin be seen on the security video acting in a physically assaultive manner.”
A Hardwick police officer arrived at the store after Chaplin left, and the officer spoke to Johnson, the affidavit said. Johnson told the officer that he came to the aid of the clerk. Chaplin told him he knew where he lived and would be going to his home to “deal with him” later that night, according to the affidavit.
The officer reported that, as he was walking out of the store, Johnson told him that if Chaplin showed up at his house, he would “[expletive] shoot him.”
Later that night, according to the affidavit, Chaplin drove up to Johnson’s home on Eligo Lake Road in Greensboro, and a confrontation took place outside the home before Johnson shot Chaplin, who was not armed.
At one point after the shooting, the affidavit said, Johnson can be heard on a video asking how Chaplin was doing.
“Any word on how Robby is doing? I don’t want him to die. That’s all I need is a murder charge,” Johnson said, according to the affidavit.
“I don’t want him to die,” the affidavit quoted Johnson as saying. “It was totally self-defense. I was in fear for my life, especially from what happened earlier. He’s lucky I didn’t bring my shotgun.”
Johnson told police that, when Chaplin drove into his driveway, he grabbed his spotlight and .22-caliber pistol, went outside and confronted Chaplin, and told him to leave, according to the affidavit.
A video from Johnson’s home security system shows Johnson leaning against the driver’s side door of Chaplin’s vehicle, shining a light onto Chaplin’s face, the affidavit stated.
Johnson can then be heard on the video saying, “You see that, bud?” and “You see that barrel?” and telling Chaplin to leave, according to the affidavit.
Seconds later, according to the affidavit, Johnson can be heard saying, “Drill it right in your [expletive] head. Right now, you’ve already threatened me.”
Johnson told police that at one point Chaplin threw open the door of his vehicle and lunged at him, the affidavit said, and Johnson said his revolver misfired twice because he forgot he had the safety on.
Once Chaplin jumped at him again, the filing said, Johnson said he shot Chaplin in the chest then rendered aid to him until first responders arrived.
After an autopsy, the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington ruled Chaplin’s death a homicide, caused by a gunshot to his chest and arm.
“I told him to get the [expletive] outta here or I was going to shoot,” Johnson told police, according to the affidavit. “He bolted out the door at me and I [expletive] put one in his chest and that was it.”
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