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Attorney General's office releases final report on fatal 2014 Black Acres stabbing

Staff report
December 08. 2017 9:58PM
In this photo from 2014, Lisa Gagnon of Manchester holds two framed photographs of her son Christopher, 22, who died Feb. 2, 2014, from a stab wound to the chest. (Union Leader file photo)



MANCHESTER — Nearly four years after a clash between two groups in the Black Acres area of the West Side left one man dead, the Attorney General’s office has released its final report explaining why no one was charged with homicide.

Christopher Gagnon, 22, was fatally stabbed in the chest on the night of Feb. 2, 2014, after a confrontation between the two groups turned violent.

Stephen O’Neill, who was also 22 at the time, admitted he stabbed Gagnon during a struggle but claimed he acted in self-defense after Gagnon had pinned him to the ground and stabbed him in the back.

In October 2014, the Attorney General’s office had announced that it would not bring homicide charges in connection with Gagnon’s death. At the time, the agency said it would issue its final report on Gagnon’s death once the legal proceedings had ended.

And that’s what it did on Friday afternoon.

The report states that the Attorney General’s office determined it would be unable to disprove O’Neill’s legal claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stephen O'Neill, seen in court during his trial, was sentenced to 8 1/2 to 17 years in prison for charges from the night of Christopher Gagnon's death. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader File)

And it noted that O’Neill’s use of deadly force “occurred during a rapidly-unfolding and violent struggle that by all accounts was brief.”

O’Neill and three friends were in the woods that night to play “Manhunt,” a live-action game that’s supposed to involve replica Airsoft weapons. But members of both groups had real weapons that night, and a confrontation between them escalated after an AR-15 O’Neill was carrying accidentally discharged. 

O’Neill told investigators that just before the fatal stabbing, he felt a cold object pressed against his back while Gagnon held him from behind, and believed it was a gun. That’s when he pulled out a knife and stabbed Gagnon once in the chest before fleeing.

O’Neill was stabbed in the back during the struggle, officials said.

In July of 2015, after a two-day trial, O’Neill was convicted of three counts of being a felon in possession of a weapon, felonious use of a firearm, criminal restraint and falsifying evidence. He was sentenced to 8½ to 17 years in prison.

Part of the angry confrontation that preceded the fatal stabbing was captured on a cellphone video by another man who was there that night. These videos were provided on the Department of Justice website.

 


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