Seabrook NH Garrito Fort shot in ‘self-defense’ is released

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SEABROOK — The man charged in a fatal shooting in Seabrook was recently released from prison following the New Hampshire attorney general’s decision not to bring homicide charges against him.

Garrito Fort, 37, of Seabrook, had been held without bail on an initial charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm on November 1, 2021, when he fatally shot Christopher Coletti, 35, and injured another man. Fort claimed to have shot the men in self-defense.

Police say the shooting took place at Fort’s home on Boynton Lane after an altercation between Fort, Coletti and Richard Janvrin Jr., 50, allegedly over damage Coletti caused to Fort’s vehicle the previous evening. Fort’s attorney claimed that Coletti and Janvrin threatened Fort with metal “bars and clubs”.

Last week, the attorney general announced that after a “full investigation,” including reviewing surveillance footage of the shooting, prosecutors “would not be able to refute Mr. Strong beyond reasonable doubt.”

Given this ruling, Fort’s attorney, Brett Newkirk, filed a motion to review Fort’s bail, a request opposed by the Rockingham County District Attorney’s Office.

In his decision on the motion, Judge David Ruoff ruled that Fort’s pre-trial detention was no longer warranted.

“In this case, despite the state’s argument to the contrary, the fact that the Attorney General’s office announced that it would not file homicide charges against the defendant is a significant factor in assessing the ‘dangerousness’ and ‘flight risk’ of the Court,” Ruoff wrote.

Last week, Coletti’s mother, Anna Randall, said she was devastated to learn her son’s shooter would not be charged with homicide. This week, she was angry that Fort had been released.

“Can someone tell me how I’m supposed to handle my son’s killer getting out of prison today on personal recognizance?” she says. “Not a penny to get out of jail after killing my son and permanently maiming another? He will never have to face charges for what he did! Why is this happening?”

The county attorney objected to bail

Assistant County District Attorney Melissa Fales argued Fort should stay behind bars because nothing has changed since he was last denied bail.

At that hearing, Fort was charged with three additional counts for unrelated matters involving a firearm, incidents that occurred weeks before the Nov. 1 shooting.

The first two incidents took place on October 7, when Fort is accused of allegedly threatening a homeless couple sleeping in their car parked near his Boynton Lane home. According to court documents, Fort confronted a woman in the driver’s seat and “stuck a gun” to the side of her head and told her “get the (expletive) out of here.” He then allegedly went to the passenger side and whipped a man with a gun, causing him to fracture his finger and lacerate his face which would have required an emergency room visit.

The third incident occurred later in October, when Fort allegedly told another man walking his dog near his property to “get the (expletive) out of here”, again with allegations that Fort was holding a gun at the time.

“The evidence presented at this hearing is still the same about what happened on November 1 and the weeks leading up to it,” Fales said. She also noted that Fort had a “significant criminal history” including kidnapping, assault and assault from Massachusetts.

Defense cites credibility issues in other cases

Fort’s attorney, Brett Newkirk, argued that bail should be “viewed in a different light,” given the attorney general’s decision not to pursue the homicide charge. He told the judge that for more than an hour Fort spoke with police after his arrest to explain what had happened.

“In this case, the videotape showed exactly what he was saying was actually true,” Newkirk said. “…After viewing the tape, they could not refute Vigilante.”

“It’s not justice”: Seabrook’s mother outraged by man who shot her son won’t be charged with murder

Newkirk added that the other three felony charges were used in the last hearing to create a narrative “that this guy is brash, out of control and would shoot anyone.” However, he continued, there were credibility issues with the alleged victims.

Newkirk argued that the couple claiming one of them had been whipped by Fort’s pistol told police they went to hospital in Exeter with injuries. But, Newkirk said, he has yet to see the state provide any evidence to support that claim.

According to Newkirk, the couple passed out in the car and the drug addicts themselves face criminal charges.

The other victim who was walking his dog, according to Newkirk, told police he “may have seen a gun.” This victim was a friend of Richard Janvrin Sr., who is the father of the other man shot on November 1.

Newkirk added that Fort had no criminal history of violent offenses with firearms.

Fort forbidden to stay in New Hampshire

According to Ruoff’s decision, the judge considered all of the alleged offenses that took place at Fort’s home.

“Thus, while serious, the conduct of the charge is not predatory in nature, but rather limited to encounters with strangers (to him) who were outside his home,” Ruoff wrote in his decision. “To be clear, the Court is not finding that the pending charges are not serious or that, if convicted, the defendant would not be meaningfully punished for his conduct. However, bail is not not meant to be criminal in nature – it is not for Punishment.”

As part of Fort’s bail conditions, he must remain with his father in Massachusetts and is prohibited from being in New Hampshire except to appear in court if necessary.

According to Ruoff’s decision, if Fort violates his bail conditions, he will be subject to immediate arrest.

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