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NYE shooting ends without injury

Local man allegedly shot Fortune’s Hardware in Tupper Lake

Multiple law enforcement agencies congregate on Depot Street in Tupper Lake Thursday as they conduct a search for a man who shot at the Fortune’s Hardware storefront. No one was injured and the suspect is in police custody. (Provided photo — Jim Lanthier)

TUPPER LAKE — A New Year’s Eve search for an active shooter on the streets of the Junction ended with village, state and environmental conservation police apprehending a man who allegedly fired a rifle at Fortune’s Hardware.

No one was injured in the shooting. Fortune’s Hardware, on the corner of Main Street and Depot Street, took the brunt of the damage.

“We’ve got some holes in the store,” Fortune’s Hardware owner Maurice Fortune said.

The shooting and subsequent search for the shooter, which began around 2 p.m. on the last day of the year, brought the attention of neighbors who watched from their windows, cars and front yards as heavily armed police walked down the middle of snowy streets searching for their suspect.

Tupper Lake Village Police Chief Eric Proulx said the suspect, who was armed with a .30-30 rifle, was apprehended without incident when he returned to Fortune’s Hardware.

Jim Lanthier was traveling on Demars Boulevard Thursday when a state trooper passed him driving fast. An avid photographer of Tupper Lake happenings, Lanthier followed the troopers, parked and took photos of police searching the Junction area for a suspect in the shooting of the Fortune’s Hardware building. He was a bit concerned watching the scene, so he said he kept his distance. (Provided photo — Jim Lanthier)

Proulx said the village department, State Police and state Department of Environmental Conservation have investigated and will release information on the shooting today. Until then, he would not verify much information, including the identity of the shooter.

Employees at the store recognized the shooter as Michael Valentine, 31, of Tupper Lake. Valentine was incarcerated in Franklin County Jail on Thursday night on several gun-related felony charges. The suspect’s bail is set at $20,000 and bond at $40,000, according to Proulx.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office reported that Valentine was charged with 11 counts: illegal discharge of a firearm, two counts of second-degree criminal use of a firearm, three counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon for possessing a firearm with a previous conviction, two counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree burglary and second-degree possession of stolen property.

Proulx said ENCON also charged the suspect with several charges.

Bullet holes riddle a window in a Fortune’s Hardware warehouse across Main Street from the main storefront, where a man shot at the main building on Thursday. (Provided photo — Maurice Fortune)

The shooting

According to Fortune, who was working in his store at the time, Valentine shot a few rounds at the store, allegedly trying to get an employee’s attention, before walking in, leaving his gun in the doorway and talking with Fortune, who was not yet aware of the shooting, before leaving with his rifle.

Fortune said Valentine allegedly took nine shots at the hardware store from the hardware store warehouse — a brown building facing the main store on the opposite side of Main Street.

Three shots hit the ceiling of the warehouse, Fortune said, one went though the wall and hit the neighbors house, and five shots crossed the street — one entering the salesroom and four going through a service door close to Depot Street.

A bullet cut a hole through a pegboard display inside Fortune’s Hardware during Thusday’s shooting of the building. (Provided photo — Maurice Fortune)

Fortune said he believes Valentine was “not malicious” and that he “was not trying to hurt anyone.”

“He never threatened anyone. It wasn’t like he was going postal,” Fortune said. “He was just paranoid that people were after him.”

Fortune said Valentine told police he recognized an employee working in the parking lot at his store and was trying to get his attention, so he fired several shots in the employee’s direction. Fortune does not know how close the shots came to the employee.

“He could have hit (my employee), he could have hit passerby, a stray bullet could have … it could have been disastrous. Instead we just got a few holes in the building and we have to replace a window,” Fortune said. “Nothing catastrophic.”

Fortune said after shooting the building Valentine ran across the street into the store with his gun. Neighbors seeing this called 911, he said.

State police troopers walk down Cedar Street in Tupper Lake during a search for a man who shot at Fortune’s Hardware Thursday. No one was injured. (Provided photo — Jim Lanthier)

Before entering the hardware store Fortune said Valentine had put down his gun in the foyer of the building, so no one saw it.

An employee there asked Valentine to put a mask on, as is the store’s COVID-19 policy. He did not have one so the employee supplied him with a mask.

At this point, the people inside the store had not heard the gunshots and were unaware about what had just occurred. The one bullet which entered the salesroom severed a shelf support, dropping merchandise to the floor. Fortune heard this but thought this was just a support failure and did not think much of it.

Fortune said he had not heard the gunshots himself, or seen Valentine with the gun, but could tell Valentine was agitated.

“He confided in me that people were after him,” Fortune said.

Fortune said Valentine told him he took his shoes off in the warehouse because they made his footsteps too loud. He drew Fortune a diagram to where he left a bag in the warehouse, which Fortune said Valentine told him contained “evidence to support this conspiracy theory.”

Fortune said Valentine apologized to him for damaging his warehouse, which he was confused by at the time.

Fortune said Valentine asked if he could exit out of the back door. Fortune, who said he had no idea of the shooting which had just taken place, agreed, and was surprised to see Valentine retrieve a gun from the front of the store and walk off.

Before Fortune had a chance to call the police, the police called him.

Around fifteen minutes later, Fortune said Valentine was in police custody.

It was only when Fortune walked across the street to his warehouse and saw the bulletholes that he realized what had happened. He said an employee retrieved the bag Valentine left in the building, but he never looked in it, saying it was “not my business.”

Fortune handed the bag over to police.

The search

Proulx said there was only one officer on duty when the call about the incident came in. The officer alerted the rest of the department and state police, got over to the scene and began a search.

Proulx said they canvassed the area, with the search extending down Cedar Street. The suspect returned to Fortune’s Hardware on Main Street, where he was taken into custody without incident, Proulx said. At 9 p.m. Thursday night Proulx said the suspect was in village police custody and was to be arraigned that night.

The aftermath

Fortune said he is glad the incident ended without injury.

“It could have been disastrous,” Fortune said. “We’re so lucky that no one got hurt.”

Fortune said the employee who was shot at was doing fine after their close call.

“He didn’t look shaken or anything to me,” Fortune said. “He sort of took it in stride.”

Proulx said the time it took from the 911 call to the arrest was around one hour.

More information will be available after the village police, State Police and DEC release their findings.

“The case belongs to the (Tupper Lake) police department,” State Police Troop B Public Information Officer Jennifer Fleishman wrote in an email. “We are assisting only.”

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