WEARE — Two officers involved in a fatal shooting during an undercover drug operation in August remain on paid administrative leave, but they are performing duties at the police department while awaiting a report of the incident from the state Attorney General's office.
The two officers, whose names are being withheld until the attorney general's report is released, were involved in the fatal shooting of a suspected drug dealer named Alex Cora DeJesus, 35. Just after 10 p.m. on Aug. 14, DeJesus met with undercover officers and informants at the Dunkin' Donuts in Lanctot's Plaza on Route 114.
Authorities said that during the undercover heroin buy, DeJesus tried to leave, driving away. The officers fired on DeJesus and gave chase briefly before DeJesus' car collided with two police vehicles and came to rest on the side of the road not far from Lanctot's Plaza. DeJesus died from a gunshot wound. The officers were placed on administrative leave while the Attorney General's office began its investigation.
Police Chief John Velleca said the two officers are carrying out administrative duties for the department but are not responding to calls or patroling.
Velleca said that as police chief, he has the authority to decide whether an officer placed on paid administrative leave should spend that time at home or come into the office to do paperwork, run errands, or perform other duties to support the department.
"It's standard protocol," said Velleca. "In this case, it doesn't make sense to pay two people to sit at home when there are things they could be doing."
Velleca said he could reinstate the two officers before the Attorney General's report is completed, but he said doing so isn't prudent given that he didn't come aboard as chief until weeks after the incident took place. Velleca said that knowing about the case directly and having only just met the officers recently doesn't give him the base of knowledge he needs to make any decision about reinstating the officers until they are cleared by the attorney general's office.
"At this point, it doesn't seem practical to not wait for the report," said Velleca. "I don't think it will be too long (before the report is released.")
According to Attorney General Joseph Foster, investigators in his office are still reviewing the case, and he doesn't have a timeline for when the report will be issued.
"It's taking some time because we want it to be thorough and completed," Foster said. "Unfortunately, from time to time, people who are working on one investigation have to be pulled off to work on new investigations."
Even if the Attorney General's office finds that the officers were justified in their use of deadly force, Velleca said there are still some hurdles they must clear before they resume their normal duties. They'll have to requalify with their firearms and a mental health professional will have to clear them for duty. There are other training requirements that will also have to be met before the officers are back on the street, Velleca said.
In addition to the two officers who are on paid administrative leave, Sgt. Joseph Kelley is also on a leave of absence. Thomas Clow, chairman of the board of selectmen, would only confirm that Kelley is on leave. However according to Concord Monitor reports, Kelley said he is on leave to recover from the stress he experienced on Aug. 14.