Accused killer asserting self-defense in January shooting outside The Goat

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John Delee, left, sits next to Defense attorney Benjamin Falkner in the courtroom on Nov. 28, 2023. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH – Last January, John Delee shot and killed Timothy Pouliot out of anger and in retribution, not because he feared the man he towered over by a foot and outweighed by 200 pounds, according to a prosecutor.

Delee, 24, formerly of Salem but now detained in the Valley Street jail, contends that he shot Pouliot in self-defense, that it was three-on-one, and that Pouliot and his two friends had set him up for a beating.

Tuesday was the first day in Delee’s trial on two counts of second-degree murder, one for knowingly causing Pouliot’s death and the other for recklessly causing his death, and one count of reckless conduct.

Pouliot, 24, of Manchester, was killed outside The Goat Bar and Grill, 50 Old Granite  St., just before 1 a.m. on Jan. 28, 2023.  The shooting followed several incidents involving Delee, Pouliot and Pouliot’s friends, Michael Mendoza, 40, and Trenton Nash, 22.

New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Rachel Harrington, in her 30-minute opening statement in Hillsborough County Superior Court North, said Delee intended to meet Abigail Elliott-Orr, his former girlfriend, and two of her friends at the bar.

At the club, Delee watched from a distance as he saw Pouliot talking to Elliott-Orr.  Delee went to the dance floor where, with a handgun in his waistband, he called Pouliot a derogatory name.  

Pouliot, who Harrington referred to as “Timmy,” laughed off the name-calling, shook hands with Delee and left the area.  Elliott-Orr and her friends then left Delee and went to the bar where Pouliot and Mendoza were sitting.

 Thinking he still might have “a shot,” Harrington said Pouliot offered to buy her a drink.

Pouliot and Mendoza “talked tough.  They said they wanted to fight the defendant; they said they were professional fighters,” the prosecutor said.

Harrington said Pouliot thought he could take the defendant.

Elliott-Orr and her friends went back to Delee and told him what Pouliot and Mendoza had said, that they wanted to knock him out and that they were professional fighters.

After being told that, Harrington said Delee was “really angry.” He went to the bar and confronted Pouliot, challenging him to a fight outside.  Ultimately, Delee shoved Pouliot.

As Harrington was telling the jurors what happened in the minutes prior to the shooting, she showed still photos taking from the bar’s surveillance cameras.  

Brian Delaney, a bouncer, pulled Delee away from Pouliot.  When Delaney asked him why he pushed Pouliot, Delee told him because Pouliot had called him a “bitch.”

Pouliot, whispered something in Mendoza’s ear, and Mendoza, who wore big rings, hit Delee in the face, cutting him.    Both Delee and Mendoza are thrown out of the club.

As he is led out by bouncers, Delee is screaming and swearing, “Who punched me in the face? Come fight me.  Come fight me.”

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Defense Attorney Ben Falkner in the courtroom on Nov. 28, 2023. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

Mendoza and Nash, Harrington said, are the first to leave the bar; they head to Mendoza’s car.  Delee stayed outside on the sidewalk, still angry and still looking for a fight.  “Fuck you.  Who punched me?  Why?” he screamed.

Pouliot left the bar soon after, heading in the opposite direction of Delee and his friends.

“This should have been the end of the confrontation but the defendant wasn’t done. He still wanted to fight,” Harrington said. 

His friends were trying to calm him down but Delee became more agitated, she said.

Nash she said, got out of his car to talk to Delee and his friends.  Delee, she said, hit him twice in the head.  Mendoza then got out of the car and, standing on a snowbank, pulled out pepper spray and pointed it at Delee.

Delee, in turned, pulled out his handgun, dropped it and picked it up again; Mendoza ran, along with Nash, to the Bank of America parking lot.  Elliot-Orr screamed for Delee to put the gun away and his other friends tried to get him to leave.

They headed down an alley leading toward the lot at Market Basket where Delee had parked.

“That was the way home,” Harrington said.  “But the defendant didn’t want to go home because he wasn’t done.  He was still angry.  He wanted to use his gun.”

He went back to Old Granite Street.  “Timmy gave the defendant the excuse he needed,” she said.  “He went up and punched the defendant in the face.”

Immediately, Delee pulled out the gun and fired it 9 times, straight at Pouliot, “even though Timmy turned and started to fall to the ground, the defendant kept shooting all the time.”

As the shots were fired, people ran for cover.

One bullet struck Pouliot in the hand, five hit him in the back, one hit him in the shoulder and another in the armpit.

Harrington said Delee then turned around and walked away, leaving “Timmy to bleed out and die.”

Harrington said there is no question in the case as to who shot Pouliot.  The question is was it self-defense, as Delee maintains.    She said the law doesn’t allow someone to instigate and escalate a situation and then claim self-defense.

She said jurors will view a video of the shooting, captured on the cell phone of a bystander.  “That is not self-defense,” she said.  It is rage and retribution, she said.

Defense attorney Benjamin Falkner told the jurors that the state has the burden of proving Delee didn’t act in self-defense.

He said the sequence of events, from what occurred inside and then outside the bar, were almost all audio and/or video recorded.

His retelling of what happened that night differed from the prosecutor’s.

He said Delee and his friends, Matthew Soldana and Gage Chandler, went to The Goat to meet up with Elliott-Orr and her two friends.  At some point, he saw Elliott-Orr talking to Pouliot, Nash and Mendoza.

He said Elliott-Orr and her friends will testify they were “a little uncomfortable” talking with them and weren’t upset when Pouliot and Nash walked away.

Falkner said as far as Delee was concerned, when he and Pouliot shook hands, that was the end of it.

But then the girls, after talking to Pouliot and Mendoza at the bar, warned Delee that they said Tim is a professional fighter and he was going to knock him out.

Delee went to the bar, shoved Pouliot and, Falkner said, that was the end of it as far as Delee was concerned.

Delee goes back to the girls but then he sees Pouliot whisper something into Mendoza’s ear. Mendoza goes up to Delee and sucker punches him in the face.

Mendoza, Falkner said, had “big old rings on his hand” and when he hit Delee, he cut him.  Falkner said Mendoza intended to knock him out, just as the girls had warned him.  Mendoza and Delee are ousted from the club.  Nash heads out as well.

Nash and Mendoza head to the car.  When Delee is outside, Nash gets out of the car and goes up to Delee “trying to pretend he didn’t know what happened.  He comes right up to him and gets right in his face.  Delee tells him to get of here.

“Did John get physical with Nash there?” Falkner said.  “But he’s not on trial for his interaction with Nash.”

At that point, Mendoza comes out and, standing on a snowbank, pulls out a can of pepper spray “right in John’s face. That is when Delee pulls out the gun, drops it and picks it back up and warns him, and Mendoza backs up.”

Delee and his friends head for the alley, in the direction of where Delee’s car is parked.  Nash and Mendoz, Falkner said, are following them up the street.

Pouliot, he said, runs down to the end of the street.  “He’s acting as a lookout,” Falkner maintained.   “They are in attack mode.  They will not leave John Delee.”

As Nash and Mendoza follow Delee, they are yelling back to Pouliot, “He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun.”

Pouliot, according to Falkner, continues up the street where Elliott-Orr tries to stop him.  Pouliot, he said, challenges her to punch him in the face and then he goes on to confront Delee “a man he knows has a gun.”

Delee has to walk down a long, dark alley to get to his car, Falkner said.  As he’s walking, Nash and Mendoza are screaming at him and “Timothy Pouliot walks up to lead the charge.  It’s a setup.  John Delee is supposed to walk down this dark alley with people following him?”

Just prior to the shooting, Falkner said Mendoza and Nashua were on either side of Delee in the alley.

Soldano, who is with Delee, is confronted by Nash and Mendoza.  He puts his hands on his head and starts walking away.

“That is when it’s three-on-one,” Falkner said.  That’s when, for the second time that night, he is punched in the face, this time by someone he has been told is a professional fighter, the defense attorney said.

“How does he know they don’t mean to get his gun?  How does he know they don’t mean to kill him with his own gun,” Falkner said. In split seconds, he’s fired nine shots.

When police officers arrive with guns drawn, Falkner said Delee has already dropped the gun.  He gets down on his knees and he tells the officers it was self-defense.

“It was three on one,” he said Delee told them.  “They attacked me.”

Falkner maintained Pouliot and his friends used tactical maneuvers as they pursued him and threatened him.  

“They gave him no out.  Unfortunately, Timothy Pouliot lost his life and, again, the state is right.  It should have ended long before that,” he said.

The trial resumes on Wednesday at 10 a.m. with jurors taking a view of the scene of the shooting.


About this Author

Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.