Shooting Determined To Be Self-Defense

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Following a thorough investigation, Payson Police detectives believe the fatal shooting of Richard Pattay, 63, was most likely, a case of self-defense.

Officers were dispatched to the LaBonte residence on the night of Feb. 8, after Beverly LaBonte, 68, called 911 stating her husband, Lucien, 68, had shot Pattay.

When police arrived, Pattay was dead from five gunshot wounds.

Payson Police detectives spent nearly a week out at the scene and conducting interviews with those involved.

Det. Matt Van Camp said they have some idea of how things occurred, but said they will never know definitively.

"We have a few theories based on statements and physical evidence," Van Camp said. "They all point to self-defense."

According to Van Camp, Pattay was upset about a gun trade that he and LaBonte made several weeks earlier.

"Mr. Pattay wanted a gun back that he had traded to Mr. LaBonte," Van Camp said.

Pattay went to the LaBonte home on Chalet Circle earlier in the afternoon, while Mr. LaBonte was out. Van Camp said Pattay was described by LaBonte as angry and agitated and armed with a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun.

"There was a verbal confrontation when (Pattay) returned to the home around 10 p.m.," Van Camp said. "The two men went down to the garage where Mr. LaBonte's gun vault was located."

What occurred next is still unclear, but the evidence at the scene showed that Pattay fired three shots at close range into the lock on the gun vault.

"(LaBonte) did retrieve one of Pattay's guns from the vault," Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner said. "The vault alarm goes off and then is deactivated by Mr. LaBonte."

Van Camp said 31 seconds later more shots were fired.

"After removing the rifle from the vault, Mr. LaBonte indicates there was a struggle," Van Camp said. "Mr. LaBonte said he thought his wife was coming down to the garage. He drew his weapon and fired at Mr. Pattay."

According to the autopsy, Pattay had a total of five gunshot wounds, four of them in his back.

According to Van Camp, Pattay had a history of mental illness and unpredictable and sometimes violent behavior.

"We feel comfortable with our assessment that this was a case of self-defense," Van Camp said. "Things happened very fast -- in a period of about 62 seconds."

The crime scene was maintained and processed for five days, guarded by police volunteers who worked in shifts.

"Our volunteers were very vital to this investigation," Gartner said. "Our guys spent a lot of time at the scene, gathering information."

Gartner said the case is now being forwarded to the county attorney's office.

"They've been working with us since the beginning," Gartner said. "It's now in their hands to reach a legal conclusion based on the evidence we have collected."

Gartner said the situation was a tragic one for both the Pattay family and the LaBontes.

"It's very sad," Gartner said. "Any time an individual has to use deadly force to defend themselves, their life is turned upside down.

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