A Tollhouse man who campaigned for governor was ordered Wednesday to stand trial for shooting and injuring a man and killing a horse during an argument over road work last year.
In court, Tye Glenn Champ’s lawyer, Eric Schweitzer, claimed his client was defending himself when he shot John Harrison Price III. Price, 40, was shot in the stomach on Aug. 7 and was hospitalized for seven days. Schweitzer also said Champ didn’t shoot the horse despite one witness statement indicating that after Price was shot, Champ said, “How do you guys like this?” and fired several shots into a horse corral.
“There is no evidence of a gunshot wound to that horse,” Schweitzer said. “It’s obvious to me that the horse was dead for quite a while prior to the photo being taken.”
Schweitzer pointed to a stiff leg and the horse’s bloated condition as evidence that the horse was dead for many hours.
Never miss a local story.
But, after a four-hour hearing, Judge Edward Sarkisian found it was reasonable to believe that Champ shot the horse because it was not breathing and had a hole in its upper left leg, according to deputies’ accounts.
Champ, who ran for governor last year, has an extensive criminal record that includes convictions for manslaughter, assault with intent to commit rape and concealed weapons violations. He also is a registered sex offender.
He had been hired by Price’s neighbor to pave a roadway with other men near Prather that leads to the home of a friend. He was upset when Price’s teenage son drove his all-terrain vehicle on the road. Schweitzer said Champ was angry because the boy was getting dirt on the new road and it wasn’t the first time it happened.
Price told deputies, who testified Wednesday, that his son was riding on the road because Price had just returned home with horse feed, and he had asked the teen to drive to their mobile home up the road to get an extra barrel for the feed. When the boy got near the mobile home, said detective George Razo, he encountered Champ, who punctured two of the tires on the all-terrain vehicle.
As the boy turned back toward the home, he yelled for his father, which is when Price encountered Champ.
The two men faced each other, and detectives said Norman told them that Champ was fidgeting in his pocket before pulling out a gun and shooting Price. Champ said Price attacked him with a knife. Price, interviewed by The Bee last year, didn’t deny pulling a knife on Champ.
Champ then continued toward the horse pasture where accounts indicate he fired three to eight shots, detectives said.
The criminal complaint charges Champ with the attempted murder of Price, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, cruelty to an animal for killing a horse, possession of a firearm by a felon and misdemeanor vandalism. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Court records show that Price also has a troubled past with neighbors.
In 2013, he got into a civil dispute with neighbor Bill Fields, who told a judge in March that Price tried to run his wife and in-laws off the road and had threatened to kill him and his family.
Price also threw rocks at Fields’ cars and “made his fingers into a gun and shot me,” Fields wrote in court documents.
He told a judge “all of our neighbors have been harassed” by Price and they have notified the sheriff’s office about it.
Champ remains in Fresno County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail. His next hearing is March 9.