Thursday February 7, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A Manchester man being held on domestic assault charges, who shot himself the day before he was originally scheduled to be arraigned on those accusations, has now been charged with lying to police over where he was wounded.

Donald Ely-Gardner, 27, of Cone Road, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to a misdemeanor charge of false information to a police officer. Ely-Gardner is currently being held without bail two counts of domestic assault with a prior conviction, and two counts of first degree aggravated domestic assault, to which he pleaded not guilty last week. Those charges allege that he broke a woman’s finger and ankle.

The court has ordered Ely-Gardner undergo mental health and competency screening.

According to an affidavit by Manchester Police Sgt. Paul McGann, on Dec. 30 at 8:29 p.m. he was sent to the front parking of the Manchester Police Station where he found Ely-Gardner. "He was in pain, his skin color was grayish tone, and he informed this affiant that he had been shot," McGann wrote.

McGann said there was a hole in Ely-Gardner’s jacket on the right upper side of his chest and that the area was soaked in blood, as were Ely-Gardner’s hands and pants. He said Ely-Gardner told him he had been shot near the roundabout but the conversation stopped as Ely-Gardner was drifting in and out of consciousness.

McGann said Ely-Gardner was driven to the station by William Nichols, who told police Ely-Gardner had called him on a cell phone to say he had been shot. Nichols went to where Ely-Gardner was and brought him back to his apartment on Cone road, then drove him to the police station.

According to McGann, he determined the shooting occurred behind the former Movado Store on Main Street where he found blood in the snow there. McGann said at that point he had three theories, one was that a "drive-by" shooting had occurred, a drug deal went bad, or Ely-Gardner had shot himself. McGann said Ely-Gardner had only said he had been shot and when asked if he had seen the shooter, Ely-Gardner did not answer.

McGann wrote that on Jan. 10 he and another officer traveled to Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y. to speak to Ely-Gardner who was being treated for his wound there. McGann said Ely-Gardner was reserved when answering questions, but ultimately admitted to having shot himself.

"He removed his mother’s Taurus P22 from her vehicle, and that he was feeling pretty down, and not wanting to go to jail, he shot himself," McGann wrote, adding that he asked Nichols to return the gun to his mother.

A "Taurus P22" is a .22 caliber handgun.

McGann wrote in the affidavit that he believes there is probably cause to charge Ely-Gardner with giving false information to police because the shooting occurred behind the store and not near the roundabout.

According to a police affidavit regarding the domestic assault charges Ely-Gardner was scheduled to answer them in court on Dec. 31 at 8:30 a.m., the day after he shot himself. Initially police treated the matter as a suicide attempt and said they did not intend to file charges, and the only reason it was publicized to begin with was because they did not then know Ely-Gardner was the shooter and were concerned for the public’s safety.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr