NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) – A man about to go on trial for a 2019 fatal shooting in Preston has avoided trial by pleading nolo contendere and now will be sentenced in February on first-degree manslaughter with a firearm charge.

Francis Giannelli, 28, of Glastonbury, was charged with the shooting death of 35-year-old Robert Thompson of Preston on Oct. 26, 2019. As his trial was about to begin, he entered the plea in which he did not accept or deny responsibility for the crime.

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According to court papers, a witness says he saw a pick-up truck Thompson was riding in and a 2010 Mercedes Giannelli was riding in stopped at the light on the Mohegan Pequot Bridge, which is at the corner of Routes 12 and 2a.

He heard five to seven gunshots from one car to another and later saw the Mercedes make a U-turn and speed by his car.

Police tracked down Giannelli, who later turned himself in to police.

Giannelli claims while at the Comix Roadhouse in Mohegan Sun, he saw Thompson taking pictures of him with his cell phone. After exchanging words a couple of times, Giannelli said the victim and the man he was with both made a gun gesture with their fingers before driving off.

He says they met up again at the traffic light, and when he saw the driver move his hand down from the steering wheel, Giannelli said he shot six times, emptying his gun, and probably shouldn’t have shot him.

According to the Norwich Bulletin, the plea is part of a plea deal in which he agreed to an 18-year sentence.

Giannelli is scheduled to be sentenced in New London Superior Court on Feb. 9, 2023.