Pair face dangerousness hearing in Great Barrington shooting incident

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Two men who allegedly fired shots in a possible altercation late Tuesday and later threatened a store clerk, are being held without bail until a dangerousness hearing on Monday.

Nathan Bona, 20, of Southfield, and Austin Whitney, 22, of Great Barrington were detained after their arraignment in Southern Berkshire District Court, where Judge William Rota reluctantly agreed to give the state until Monday to argue whether the two are considered a danger to the public.

Bona and Whitney's court-appointed attorneys said they were prepared to have the dangerousness hearing then and there, and Rota appeared reluctant to delay it, citing case law.

But Assistant District Attorney Kyle Christiansen, saying Bona had told the clerk he would shoot her, asked to push the hearing to Monday to give town police time to continue the investigation and interviews during what he said was a busy week at the department, and because officers were unable to attend the Thursday arraignment.

Police believe Bona or Whitney may have fired what was later found to be a semi-automatic Phoenix handgun in the Lake Mansfield beach parking lot late Tuesday.

After a resident reported hearing a series of gunshots, police arrived to find two women who told them that "two drunk males" had arrived in a big pickup truck. There was "brief conversation," the women said, before a "shot came out of the truck and then it fled the lot and fired 4-5 more shots," according to the report.

No one was injured in the incident.

Police found three spent .22 caliber casings on the ground along with "numerous tiny zip lock baggies, commonly used to attach a spare button to clothing or [to hold] drugs."

While working at that scene, police were called to Cumberland Farms, where a clerk told them Bona had been harassing six men inside, before continuing to harass them outside and brandishing a gun.

The clerk said one of the men ran back inside and told her to call police because Bona had a gun. While she was on the phone and trying to get Bona to leave, Bona said to her, "I'll shoot you too, [expletive]."

Bona was a regular customer, the clerk said. She told police he had been "acting out of the ordinary" over the last few days. It also appears from her statement to police that Whitney also had tried to persuade Bona to leave the store.

Police say they caught up with the two "very intoxicated" men in a traffic stop on Christian Hill Road, where both were arrested.

Breathalyzer results for Bona, who was driving, were 0.124, over the legal limit, which is 0.08.

The gun was later found tucked behind the dashboard, according to the report. Police say it was found loaded, had another seven-round magazine attached, and the hammer was back.

Neither man had a license to carry a firearm, according to Christiansen, nor was the truck registered in either of their names.

Bona was charged with three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, threat to commit a crime and driving while under the influence of liquor; Whitney was charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

Christiansen, who said additional charges might be forthcoming, said the gunshots fired at the lake were directed toward people.

Attorney Jedd Hall, who had just been assigned to Bona, said there was no indication that people were directly shot at, and that the police report did not use the word "altercation," but "conversation" to describe what happened between the men and women at the lake.

Hall said Bona had no prior criminal history. And Whitney's attorney, Ryan Smith, said his client had never before been held.

According to Northern Berkshire District Court records Whitney had been charged in March with with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, leaving the scene, speeding, malicious destruction of property over $250 and vandalizing. The incident happened in Williamstown.

Despite all this, and after asking what might be gained by waiting three days, Rota deemed it necessary to hold the pair over the weekend.

"A shot would suggest an assault," Rota said.

"We don't know what that means," Hall said.

"Well I know what that means," Rota replied. "I can't release them. The law is exquisitely clear."

Rota entered not guilty pleas on both men's behalf and a hearing for 9 a.m. Monday.

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871 or @BE_heatherbellow.

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