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Mason man found dead after police called to check on him

Union Leader Correspondent

May 09. 2012 4:51PM

MASON - A Jackson Road man is dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after a brief confrontation with police Wednesday morning.

At around 10 a.m., Officer Steven Duval drove out to the secluded yellow cape at 403 Jackson Road after the owner's mother called police and asked them to check on the welfare of her son, said police chief Barry Hutchins.

When Duval arrived at the home, he knocked on the door and said the owner, Gary Schaffer, 42, opened the door and approached Duval in what he believed was a threatening manner, Hutchins said.

'He had one arm behind his back and one hand out in front of him, and the officer thought he might have a gun,' said Hutchins.

Duval quickly tried to put distance between himself and Schaffer, and then Schaffer retreated into the house. Duval then heard a single gunshot and called for backup.

The state police SWAT team arrived on scene with an armored 'Bear' vehicle and busted in the front door of the house, Hutchins said. Then a robot equipped with a camera was sent in to search the house.

'The robot was good,' said Hutchins. 'It was able to give video and audio of the scene without putting any officers in harm's way.'

The robot was able to locate Schaffer, who was found lying on the floor and appeared to be dead.

Hutchins said the house was secured and officers went in and found Schaffer. Hutchins said he appeared to have shot himself in the head with a Ruger P99 semi-automatic pistol.

Schaffer, who bought the house on the heavily wooded dirt road five years ago, left the area for a time and went to Florida but returned to Mason in January.

Neighbors told Hutchins that Schaffer would frequently be shooting a gun late at night, but the gunshots were never reported to police. And though the department had minor dealings with Schaffer, there was nothing in their interaction that would lead police to believe he was suicidal, Hutchins said. A search of the house revealed nothing unusual, he said.

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, state and local police departments had left the scene, and Duval and Hutchins remained at the house waiting for the medical examiner and the funeral home.

Hutchins said that in the wake of the Greenland shooting of police chief Michael Maloney, officers including Duval are keenly aware of the unknown dangers that could be present at every call.

'You never know what you're going to face when you approach a house,' he said, 'and you're never going to get used to gunshots. And you shouldn't.'

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