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Trial for man charged with Avondale shooting gets underway in St. John's

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As the trial for a 21-year-old man charged with a shooting in Avondale last spring got underway Monday, his lawyer attempted to paint a picture of a situation requiring self-defence.

Jesse Lewis of Conception Harbour has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault, possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, careless use of a firearm, driving while disqualified and four counts of breaching court orders, laid in relation to a shooting April 21.

Holyrood RCMP officers received a report of a shooting outside an Avondale home around 6 p.m. that day, and located a 32-year-old man with a shotgun wound to the leg. He was taken to hospital.

Lewis, Paul Conway, a woman and a male youth had reportedly been at the house when the victim, Bern Mason, arrived. Mason was said to have been shot later, after an altercation outside the home.

Lewis allegedly fled the scene in a vehicle with Conway, the woman and the youth. Police eventually stopped the vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway by using a spike belt, which flattened the vehicle's tires. The driver attempted to keep going, but came to a stop near the Whitbourne turnoff.

On Monday, Crown prosecutor Mike Murray called a handful of witnesses to the stand, including RCMP Cpl. Trevor Baldwin.

Baldwin testified Mason had showed up at Lewis's father's home the afternoon of the shooting, allegedly breaking a cupboard. He was reportedly shot by a sawed-off shotgun, the officer said, but the gun was never recovered.

Baldwin told the court that blood samples taken from the home and the victim's pants proved to be a DNA match.

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In his cross-examination of Baldwin, defence lawyer Mark Gruchy questioned him about the woman's statements to police about Mason, including that Mason had tried to run her off the road in a vehicle days prior to the shooting, that he had grabbed her by the wrists, had done damage to the home, and had threatened Lewis, telling him, "If you're going to shoot me, you better make it a good one," before coming toward him aggressively.

"Do you remember when she told you, 'I honestly thought Bern was going to kill Jesse?'" Gruchy asked Baldwin.

"I do," the police officer replied.

"Why wasn't Mr. Mason ever charged?" Gruchy asked.

"I don't know," answered Baldwin.

He later elaborated, saying there had been some discussion among officers about other potential charges, but the "totality of the circumstances" warranted charges against Lewis.

Conway had been charged with being Lewis's accessory as well as resisting arrest. He was convicted of the latter charge, and the former was withdrawn.

Lewis's trial continues in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Wednesday, when Mason as well as the female witness are expected to testify.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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