Mother of man shot by officers files lawsuit
CONCORD — The mother of a man shot and killed 18 months ago by Haverhill police officers after he crashed his car in Bath is suing the police department and officers in federal court.
Donna Esty of Hebron, individually and as executor of the estate of her son Hagen Esty-Lennon, originally filed the lawsuit in Grafton County Superior Court against the Grafton County Sheriff’s Office, Haverhill Police Department and Sgt. Wallace Trott, and Officers Ryan Jarvis and Gregory Collins.
The lawsuit alleges wrongful death, civil conspiracy, violation of civil rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision and training, battery among other claims. It was transferred Tuesday to U.S. District Court.
Haverhill police issued a statement saying it is “unfortunate that our dedicated police officers have been sued. Our police officers were completely justified in their actions. This matter has already been thoroughly investigated by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and found to have been completely justified under the circumstances,” said the statement issued by Chief Byron Charles.
He said the department’s attorneys will be responding to the lawsuit in due course.
Esty alleges the unconstitutional policies and practices of the Haverhill Police Department caused the “unjustified shooting” of Esty-Lennon, 41, of Bath in July, 2015.
Heavily edited videos of the fatal police shooting were released by state authorities showing the minutes leading up to Esty-Lennon’s death but stopping short of showing the moment two officers opened fire or what happened immediately after the shooting. A court blocked their full release.
The video showed Esty-Lennon initially walking toward police as they back up, then he turns to run away. But when Jarvis and Collins start to give chase, Esty-Lennon turns around to charge at the officers but the video cuts off before shots are fired.
In Esty’s lawsuit, she said Jarvis and Collins fired 10 times, striking Hagen six times and fatally wounding him “without provocation.” He fell to the ground with his hands and arms underneath him. At that point in time, Esty said, there was no imminent harm to the officers’ safety. Esty was a significant distance away, had no firearm, was plainly dazed and previously injured. He had a chest wound when police first encountered him and was visibly disoriented after having crashed his car.
Jarvis approached the wounded Esty-Lennon, who was on the ground. The officer put his knee on Esty-Lennon’s back while grabbing him by the hair on the back of his head holding his face into the pavement while attempting to locate the knife underneath him, according to the lawsuit. Eventually, he was handcuffed and rolled onto his back. “He was covered in blood and gasping for air,” according to court documents. Esty-Lennon later died at Cottage Hospital in Woodsville.
The state Attorney General’s Office ruled the shooting a justified use of force by officers. Esty says the report is “full of errors and is disputed. The report is wrong in many material ways. The report reveals a disturbing pattern of law enforcement officers and officials protecting one another.”
Esty also says a reasonable officer should have recognized that a car accident victim could have a prior head injury, be disoriented, in shock and not in a clear state of mind. “That victim should not be shot down,” according to the lawsuit.