The shooting in a Walmart parking lot Saturday in Auburn was the result of a petty dispute that began months ago, the girlfriend of the victim said Wednesday.

Jean Fournier, 41, of Turner died July 27 after being shot in the parking lot of the Walmart in Auburn. Contributed photo

Police have declined to describe the connection between Gage Dalphonse, 21, who was charged Wednesday with murdering Jean Fournier, 41.

But Jean Fournier’s girlfriend, Tara Nguyen, 38, said the conflict that spurred the shooting began at a nursing home where Nguyen used to work.

Nguyen said she took a job in the beginning of 2019 working as a kitchen helper at Clover Manor in Auburn where she delivered meals, did dishes and assisted residents.

Nguyen said Clover Manor also employed Dalphonse, who worked in a different part of the facility, and Dalphonse’s girlfriend, who worked more closely with Nguyen in a small kitchen where they helped prepare and deliver food to residents.

Nguyen said that from her first day at work at Clover, Dalphonse’s girlfriend was hostile and mean toward her, and began complaining about her work ethic to Nguyen’s manager.

The drama was unexpected, Nguyen said. She’d never met Dalphonse or his girlfriend before, and the dispute came to a head a month later when Dalphonse’s girlfriend was asked to resign because of the fighting.

Jean Fournier, left, and his son, Justin Karcher, in June 2019. Photo courtesy of Tara Nguyen

Dalphonse still worked at the nursing home for about another month, and one day in May, Dalphonse approached Nguyen and threatened to “drop kick” her if she was mean to the nursing home residents, Nguyen said.

Nguyen said she did not see Dalphonse working at the facility after that point, assuming he either quit or got fired. Nguyen left the nursing home in June and eventually got another job. She said she only spoke to Dalphonse a couple of times, including when he allegedly threatened her.

The confrontation in the Walmart parking lot, however, was the product of a chance encounter, Nguyen said.

Fournier, Nguyen and a group of family and friends had spent the day at the beach, and planned to pick up groceries and food for grilling at Walmart.

Nguyen, Fournier and the other members of their group were walking back to their car when Nguyen said she spotted Dalphonse driving toward them in the same parking lot aisle. His windows were down and Dalphonse had a friend in the front seat.

Nguyen said as Dalphonse passed her, he cursed at her. Nguyen’s niece, who was with her, took offense, and told Dalphonse to apologize, but Dalphonse refused and cursed at her, too.

Fournier was a few steps behind them and took notice, Nguyen said.

“That pissed Jean off right there, but Jean’s a problem solver, not a problem maker,” Nguyen said.

As Nguyen and some of the other people in their group loaded groceries, Jean went to talk to Dalphonse, who was parked with the windows down. Nguyen said she watched as Fournier and a friend spoke with Dalphonse through his open window.

Although she could not hear their conversation directly, Nguyen said she watched from a short distance and said that throughout the conversation between the two men, Dalphonse was seated in the car with his driver’s door closed, and Fournier was outside the vehicle.

Fournier attempted to get Dalphonse to apologize to Nguyen, but Dalphonse refused. Nguyen said the second person who accompanied Fournier later told her about the conversation.

Jean Fournier, right, and Tara Nguyen in July 2019. Photo courtesy of Tara Nguyen

Nguyen said there was no fistfight, and the men never became physical with each other.

Nguyen said Fournier turned to leave when Dalphonse got out of his car and took out a gun. Nguyen said she remembers Fournier yelling that Dalphonse had a gun.

Then Dalphonse fired, Nguyen said.

“Jean walked off, and Gage got out and shot him,” Nguyen said. “He fell so hard. He broke his nose. We were taking his teeth off his stomach.”

After the shooting, Dalphonse approached Fournier and stood at his feet, the gun still in his hand and pointed down toward the pavement.

The scene was chaotic. Nguyen said she wasn’t sure whether Dalphonse was going to keep shooting. She tried to get close to help Fournier, but kept running back out of fear.

“I kept yelling at my niece to call 911,” Nguyen said. “I kept yelling for someone to help him.”

People gather at the Auburn Walmart parking lot Saturday night where Jean Fournier, 41, was shot to death. Police have charged Gage Dalphonse, 21, of Auburn with murder. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

She watched as Dalphonse reached down and pulled Fournier’s shirt up to see the wounds. Dalphonse took his own shirt off to apply pressure to one of the wounds, Nguyen said.

An undercover police officer intervened and took Dalphonse’s gun and sat Dalphonse down on the curb away from Fournier, Nguyen said.

Nguyen said she ran to Fournier and took off a dress she had put on over her bathing suit to apply more pressure to his injuries.

Nguyen said she’s dealt with a rush of abuse and rumors online, with people blaming her or calling her out for some role in the shooting. She said she hopes that telling her side of the story will quiet the rumors and give a clearer picture of what happened.

“Jean did not deserve to die,” she said.

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