Sheldon Rheaume, the Essex man accused of pointing a gun at a store clerk in August, will serve three years on probation, court records show.
Rheaume, 23, pleaded guilty last month to aggravated assault with a weapon and reckless endangerment – charges in connection to an August incident in which court records say he pointed a gun and directed racial slurs at a woman working at Maplefields on Main Street.
Rheaume’s conviction for the weapons charge could be expunged from his record if he serves out the probation period without committing another crime.
Prosecutors agreed to drop two other charges as part of his plea deal: a disorderly conduct charge that carried an additional penalty because prosecutors alleged his actions were motivated by hate, and petty larceny.
The latter charge stemmed from a June incident in which police say he stole the Black Lives Matter flag off the pole at Essex High School, where students raised the flag in May as part of a student-led effort.
Rheaume was initially held without bail in August pending a sanity evaluation, though he was eventually deemed fit for trial.
His plea agreement says he must complete counselling at the Howard Center and must avoid any contact with the female store clerk.
According to court records, Rheaume directed racial slurs at a store clerk sitting behind the counter before leaving the store to complain to another employee, referring to the woman again in racial epithets. When she walked outside, Rheaume told her, “I’ll handle you.” Later, he told the two employees, “Come send anyone you want after me and I’ll shoot them,” according to court records.
Police arrested Rheaume in the Hannaford parking lot later that morning. Officers found a loaded 9mm handgun with one round in the chamber sitting in his vehicle’s center console. He was still wearing the vest, an affidavit says.
News of Rheaume’s crime quickly spread on social media last week and has inspired a pair of community-led efforts. In a public Essex Facebook group, several residents said they planned to send letters or emails to Maplefields sharing their support for the employee.
And advocacy group Essex Resists hosted a 90-minute “No Home for Hate” protest in the Five Corners last Sunday that drew about 60 people, according to organizers.
At one point during a signal change for pedestrians, protestors stood in the middle of the busy intersection equipped with signs decrying racism, including one that read “Yes, even in Vermont.”