Weare police believe they acted appropriately during an undercover heroin buy that turned deadly this month and await results of the state investigation into the officer-involved shooting death of an alleged Manchester drug dealer.
The Hillsborough County Attorney's Office had signed off on the sting plan.
"For the officers of the Weare Police Department - whether they were involved or not - the few weeks that it will take to reach a preliminary finding are very long weeks. Everybody is waiting for a resolution. I think everybody is confident that their actions are correct, but that has to be validated somehow," said Arthur Walker, retired Keene police chief who has been serving as the town's interim police administrator since Chief Gregory Begin resigned, June 1.
Still, Walker stressed, the Weare force recognizes it will be up to the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office and State Police Major Crime investigators as to whether the Aug. 14 shooting death of Alex Cora DeJesus, 35, of Manchester involved a justified use of deadly force.
The Attorney General's Office said the names of the two Weare police officers who fired their weapons and struck DeJesus will not be released until a preliminary finding has been made. Both are veteran full-time officers who have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigation, which is standard procedure in these cases.
The investigation conducted by the state prosecutors and state police investigators will take weeks, Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan G. Morrell said.
The New Hampshire Attorney General's Drug Task Force played no role in the undercover drug operation, which occurred about 10:10 p.m. outside Dunkin' Donuts at Lanctot's Plaza on Route 114, Attorney General Joseph A. Foster said.
But the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office was both aware of the undercover drug buy and signed off on it, the New Hampshire Union Leader has learned.
Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance would not comment Friday, citing the ongoing investigation.
No warrants were obtained because the operation was planned as an undercover heroin purchase, Walker said.
The incident stemmed from an investigation into heroin dealing in Weare. Several Weare police officers, two confidential informants and the suspected drug dealer were at the plaza where the drug deal was supposed to occur, authorities have said.
At some point, two Weare officers fired their weapons and wounded the suspected drug dealer, who drove off in his car. Police in unmarked vehicles followed him for a few hundred yards, at which point his vehicle struck an ice cream stand. The two unmarked cruisers also collided, but no officers were hurt. DeJesus died at a Manchester hospital.
The investigation will hinge largely on whether DeJesus was armed, fired at or threatened officers in any other way, Walker said.
"That is the essence of the investigation," he said.
State authorities have refused to say whether DeJesus was armed or exchanged gunfire with police.
Nashua police twice arrested DeJesus in the last four years following multiple drug sales involving confidential informants. He pleaded guilty after both arrests and received suspended sentences and recommendations to undergo drug counseling.
In recent years, the Weare Police Department has been plagued with lawsuits and staff turnover.
The department has been without a chief since Begin retired in early June, a year before his three-year elected term expired. His second-in-command, Lt. James Carney, retired July 1.
Carney previously was on paid administrative leave pending allegations of having an inappropriate relationship with a department employee, engaging in fights with officers and civilians, transporting alcohol in police vehicles and other charges.
Walker agreed to take over as interim administrator in early June while the town searches for a new chief. He said he does not believe the Aug. 14 incident dissuaded any potential candidates from applying or demoralized the department.
"This is something that we are dealing with today. What was in the past is in the past. What we are dealing with now is with the people we have now and a situation that existed at a particular point in time," Walker said.
The active-duty force currently consists of six full-time officers, one part-time officer and one officer in field training.
Townspeople have been largely supportive of the force as seen "by their words and actions and kindnesses offered by the average citizen to the officers," Walker said.