Historic City News was notified that the first-degree murder trial of 43-year-old Christopher Linus Fries, who has been incarcerated at the St Johns County Detention Facility since September 11, 2011, will get underway; starting at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning before Circuit Judge Michael Traynor in Room 316 of the Richard O. Watson Courthouse in St Augustine.
Fries, formerly an engineer employed by CB Richard Ellis, who lived at 410 22nd Street in St Augustine, was arrested at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday night, September 10th in the parking lot of the Giggling Gator Pub located at 121 King Street, after police and witnesses say he got into a heated argument with another patron, reportedly over a sexual encounter between the victim and Fries girlfriend. According to police, both men had been drinking.
“I’m going to fucking kill you,” Officer Frank Shipp heard as he moved towards the entrance to the bar; only seconds before he heard gunfire and saw the legs of the two men on the ground; between a parked blue car and the wooden deck, about 15-20 feet away.
Just one month short of his 30th birthday, Paul Gerald Crookshank, who previously lived at 7 Beacon Street, was identified by police as the man who was gunned down during the argument. Crookshank received emergency medical treatment at the scene; however, he died before he arrived at Flagler Hospital. Crookshank was a St Augustine native; born here on October 7, 1981. He attended St Augustine High School and received a diploma from Penn Foster High School; a distance learning school.
Shipp told police investigator Charles Simpson that he immediately drew his weapon and ordered the man lying on top to “drop the gun”. The man, later identified as Fries, tried to get up. Shipp said he ordered Fries, a second time, to “drop the gun”, but this time, Fries pointed to the gun lying underneath him, next to Crookshank.
Shipp and Corporal Brian Frasca took Fries into custody. While Fries was being handcuffed, he told the police officers, “He shot me”. According to the report, there were no gunshot wounds on Fries.
Statements taken from witnesses in the bar and a clerk on duty at the convenience store next door, confirmed the officer’s account of the arrest. Witnesses inside said that the two men were arguing about a woman while they were at the bar. The clerk, who was taking trash out to the dumpster, said he actually heard what sounded like the click of the hammer of a gun, being “cocked to fire”. In the witnesses’ sworn statement, he said that he saw one of the men put a short barrel, nickel plated, 6-shot revolver to the other man’s throat, just under his chin.
Crookshank reportedly put his hands in the air and was pleading with Fries not to hurt him when the clerk heard Fries tell Crookshank, “I’m going to fucking kill you!” Fries was heard to accuse Crookshank of “fucking his woman” before the fatal shot was fired.