Blowe found guilty in 2016 shootout

Following a two-day trial in Fluvanna County Circuit Court, Gary N. Blowe was found guilty of multiple felony charges stemming from the November 2016 shooting off Lake Monticello Road that left one man seriously injured and caused chaos around the county. 

Garnette Bourne, the owner of the property on which the shooting occurred, his brother Scott Bourne, and former Fluvanna County Sheriff Jackie Gillespie each took the stand to describe the events of Nov. 18, 2016.

Garnette Bourne testified that he returned to his garage after a brief outing with Gillespie and Scott Bourne to retrieve an engine from a vehicle parked elsewhere on his property, when he saw a Lexus parked in front of the garage. 

Assuming it belonged to acquaintances, he walked into the garage and “somebody started shooting” he said.

Garnette Bourne was hit in the leg and scrambled for cover behind some heavy equipment as the shooter continued to fire from the rear of the building.

Scott Bourne and Jackie Gillespie arrived within seconds and over the next several minutes, both exchanged gunfire with two to three masked shooters. During the gun battle, Garnette Bourne was hit a second time in the same leg.

All three men described the primary shooter as firing almost continuously, even as he jumped into the Lexus and drove off. “He was just whaling away,” Garnette Bourne said. “He never let up.”  

Gillespie later identified Blowe, 31, as the driver of the Lexus.

Gillespie called 911 at around 1:30 that afternoon. 

“We’re in a gunfight out here!” he could be heard saying in a recording of the call. “You’d better send everyone you’ve got!”

Suspects Dante Givens, 35, and Thomas A. Jackson, 36, both of Charlottesville, were taken into custody within moments of the call. John Morton Abbitt, 36, was arrested in Virginia Beach two days later. Blowe was taken into custody Dec. 17.

A trauma surgeon from University of Virginia Medical Center and a physician from Central Virginia Community Health Center in Buckingham testified that Garnette Bourne was struck twice in the leg. 

A bullet or fragment severed a nerve in his calf, causing a condition known as “foot drop.” As a result, he can no longer lift the front of his foot. This causes him pain, numbness, and mobility issues. Both doctors said the condition was most likely permanent.

Testimony

Each of Blowe’s co-conspirators testified to his role in crime. 

“We were going there to steal some stuff,” Jackson said. “There were supposed to be some guns out there.” 

Jackson explained he had learned about the guns kept in a safe in the apartment above the garage from Givens, an acquaintance of the apartment’s former occupant. Jackson then told Abbitt, a longtime friend who lived in Virginia Beach.

Abbitt testified that Blowe had overhead some of his phone conversations with Jackson and decided to join him in the robbery. 

The two men drove up from Virginia Beach on the morning of Nov. 18, meeting Jackson and Givens first at Pantops, then at a store along Route 53. 

Givens testified that he had not wanted to be involved in the robbery. Jackson joined Abbitt and Blowe in the Lexus and drove off. 

Jackson and Abbitt both said they had arrived at the Bourne garage, located at the end of the long gravel driveway, to find the building empty and the garage doors open. 

The three men went to the second floor apartment, only to find the gun safe open and empty. 

According to their testimony, Blowe then went downstairs ahead of them, and they immediately heard gunshots. Panicked, Jackson smashed out the upstairs window and both men jumped to the ground below, running for cover in the nearby woods.

Jackson called Givens, who was still in the area, and Givens picked him up along Lake Monticello Road. They were immediately stopped by Capt. David Wells, who took them into custody after finding a mask and disposable gloves on the passenger side of the car.

Meanwhile, Abbitt was confronted by Scott Bourne and the two men exchanged gunfire before Abbitt made it to the woods. 

Abbitt testified that he was stopped by a law enforcement officer as he walked along Lake Monticello Road. Since early reports indicated that the suspect was African American, Abbitt, who is white, didn’t ring any alarm bells. The officer instead warned him there was an active shooting in the area and drove Abbitt to the BP station on Lake Monticello Road.

As Abbitt awaited a ride from Charlottesville, someone called in a report of a suspicious person. A deputy arrived and began questioning Abbitt, briefly putting him in handcuffs. But after confirming with the cashier Abbitt’s story that he had been dropped off by a law enforcement officer, the deputy let him go. 

Abbitt made his way home to Virginia Beach, where he was arrested two days later. 

Evidence

Bolstering the state’s case, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip introduced forensic evidence showing Blowe’s movements on the day of the crime and tying him to a weapon used in the shooting.

Cell phone tower and GPS data from devices associated with Blowe and Abbitt traced their journey from Virginia Beach to Charlottesville, then to Fluvanna, with Blowe’s phone data showing him in Virginia Beach later that night.

Also found on Abbitt’s phone was a short video of Blowe asleep in the Lexus, with corresponding GPS data showing they were moving west towards Charlottesville at the time it was shot. 

Haislip also introduced into evidence a .45 caliber handgun that was found completely by chance by a family as they walked along the banks of the Rivanna River near Milton about a week after the shooting. 

The gun was shown to be a ballistic match to spent cartridges found at the crime scene, and phone data showed the phone associated with Blowe was in the North Milton Road area shortly after the shooting.

Blowe’s defense attorney Anthony Martin did not present any witnesses. He did point out discrepancies in witness testimony and the unreliability of co-conspirators. 

In his closing statement, he argued that the Commonwealth had not definitively put the weapon that shot Garnette Boune in Blowe’s hands.

After deliberation, the jury found Blowe guilty of conspiracy to commit larceny, attempted larceny of a firearm, aggravated malicious wounding, two counts of attempted malicious wounding, and three counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony.   

Blowe will return to court for sentencing May 11. He faces a potential 45 years in prison.