AUGUSTA — An Augusta man faces charges after firing a handgun Monday night during an altercation with another customer in the Augusta Walmart, police said Tuesday.

No one was injured by the gunshot, but a woman who witnessed the incident and fled from the store suffered a medical problem and died in the parking lot.

Robert Potter, 31, of Augusta was arrested on charges of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and aggravated assault with a firearm. He was later charged with felony criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon.

Robert Potter

Potter was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center and remains hospitalized at an undisclosed location, according to a police news release issued Tuesday.

GUN PULLED OVER LOOSE SHOELACE

Kevin J. Roberge of Augusta, the other man involved in the confrontation, said Tuesday that he had never touched a gun before grabbing the barrel of the Glock pistol that Potter had pulled from his waistband and pointed at him Monday night.

“I wouldn’t let go of the barrel, no ifs, ands or buts,” he said Tuesday while sitting in his kitchen.

“I have been through hell for the last six or seven months, physically,” Roberge continued. “I had a gastric bypass in 2003, and I have been nutrient-deficient, especially on proteins. After that, I wouldn’t allow that man to kill me. I also thought of my 81-year-old mother, what it would do to her. I couldn’t allow this man to do any harm to me because that would kill my mother.”

Roberge, 52, and Potter didn’t know each other before their violent altercation. Both live near the Walmart.

Roberge said he was in a motorized cart passing the credit union inside the store when he noticed a man standing nearby had a loose shoelace.

Kevin J. Roberge, the other man involved in the Augusta Walmart store confrontation, said Tuesday that he had never touched a gun before he grabbed the barrel of the Glock he said Robert Potter pointed at him Monday night. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“I said, ‘Your boot lace is untied, and I don’t want you to trip,’ ” he said.

Potter followed him as Roberge transferred his groceries to a shopping cart and crossed to the Dunkin’ Donuts counter inside the store to wait for a cab. Roberge said Potter was talking to him, but he couldn’t understand what he was saying.

“He aggressively grabbed my arm, and I told him, ‘You better let go of my arm now,’ ” Roberge said. “He lifts up his shirt and pulls out a Glock 9 mm.”

Roberge said he grabbed the barrel with his left hand and pushed the gun down. Potter was screaming at him to get down on the floor, and as they struggled, they ended up behind the counter in the back room of Dunkin’ Donuts. Roberge said he had no intention of getting down on the floor, where Potter could have overpowered him.

At one point, Roberge said, he tried to distract Potter. Still holding the barrel in his left hand, Roberge said he stuck out his right hand.

“I said, ‘My name’s Kevin. What’s yours?” Potter didn’t answer.

When the gun discharged, Roberge said, it was pointed down at an angle; he didn’t know where the bullet ended up, but he had powder burns on his hand Tuesday and a cut where the retracting slide caught him.

Their struggle brought them back out in front of the counter. When the police arrived, they ordered Potter to the ground, and he started shouting a military rank.

Roberge said he didn’t want to press charges, but police told him they had to.

“The gentleman is a vet,” Roberge said. “He wasn’t together, mentally.”

Roberge’s account of Monday night mirrors the one contained in a news release issued Tuesday by Augusta police Deputy Chief Jared Mills.

In the police account, Potter “became engaged in a verbal confrontation with another customer. At one point during the argument, Mr. Potter brandished a firearm, pointing it at the other customer. The customer attempted to defend himself by disarming Mr. Potter, at which time one round discharged from the firearm. Augusta police arrived shortly after, taking Mr. Potter into custody.”

WITNESS DIES IN PARKING LOT

A woman who witnessed the altercation ran out of the store and back to her car, and suffered a medical problem inside her car.

Officers provided emergency medical attention before Augusta fire and rescue workers arrived, but the woman died at the scene, police said.

Mills said no evidence suggests the woman was directly involved in the altercation. The woman’s name will not be released, he said.

Crime scene tape blocks the entrance to Walmart in Augusta Monday night as police investigated the gun incident in the store. Staff photo by Jessica Lowell

“It was a separate incident at this point, pending the medical examiner’s report,” he said via email. “If we are given information that her death was as a result or connected to the incident inside, then we would be able to release that.”

Court records show Potter was convicted in September 2016 of theft by unauthorized taking of a night vision monocular from Walmart; he was fined and ordered to pay restitution. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal trespass at Walmart, after he was told by a police officer that he was not supposed to be in the store, and he served 96 hours in jail.

The following month, Potter was convicted of assaulting a police officer and was fined $300.

On his Facebook page, which displays a photo of a Glock handgun, Potter lists the U.S. Army as his employer from 2008 to 2013.

After the altercation Monday night, police blocked the west entrance of the Walmart with crime scene tape and the store was closed.

Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson said Tuesday that the company takes the security of shoppers and employees seriously.

“We have a series of safety procedures in place for emergencies or times of imminent danger. Following last night’s disturbing incident, we immediately evacuated and closed the store in an abundance of caution,” Crowson said. “The store reopened today as of 6 a.m.”

The Augusta Walmart was also the scene of another exchange of gunfire last year. Four people were arrested on June 26, 2016, after an apparent drug-related incident in which two suspects fired guns at each other during a dispute in the store’s parking lot. The altercation was interrupted by two armed civilians who were in the parking lot at the time.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ