NASHUA — Following department protocol, Officer Stephen Morrill has been placed on administrative leave after shooting a reported thief who allegedly tried to grab his handgun during an arrest last weekend.
“He is on administrative leave. That is absolutely typical,” Police Chief John Seusing said of Morrill, who has been with the department for nearly four years.
Although Morrill sustained minor injuries during the altercation March 22 in the area of 5 New Haven Drive, Seusing said Morrill has been released from the hospital and is improving.
“He seems to be doing pretty well. He is a strong kid,” Seusing said of Morrill.
Morrill used his police-issued handgun to shoot Craig Riley, 41, two times after Riley retrieved the officer’s baton, swung it at Morrill and allegedly attempted to grab his gun from the holster.
The incident unfolded after police in Bedford reported a possible shoplifting in their community, and Nashua authorities located the vehicle suspected in the theft.
Riley, a convicted felon with no fixed address, was driving the vehicle and fled when police arrived.
Following two separate altercations with Morrill, the officer used his gun to shoot Riley twice.
Authorities have not stated where Riley was shot, but said he has since been released from the hospital and is being held on $75,000 cash only bail charged with attempted first-degree assault on a police officer, possession of heroin, two counts of resisting arrest, being a felon in possession of a weapon and a habitual offender.
When any type of deadly force is used by a police officer, Seusing said departments have their own set of procedures to follow.
In Nashua, Seusing said it is customary to place an officer on administrative leave following an incident like this, for a vast array of reasons.
“Obviously, it is a very traumatic event for the officer. Because of the stress the officers are under, I think everyone would handle something like that differently,” said the chief. “We want to make sure that (Morrill) is doing okay, and there is certainly no rush to come back.”
In addition to the paid administrative leave, Seusing said that counseling resources are made available to officers, and members of the department’s critical incident management team are on hand to discuss these matters further.
“I think it is really a case-by-case basis. Each incident is different,” he said, declining to speculate on when Morrill will return to work. “It is a combination of us feeling comfortable and him feeling comfortable enough to come back.”
During Morrill’s administrative leave, the department will conduct an internal review to determine if any procedures or policies were violated, focusing on training aspects and equipment, according to Seusing.
A professional standards bureau will put together a review of the situation, which will then be studied by the chief who will make a determination as to whether the deadly force was justified.
Even though Riley survived the shooting, the review is still warranted, according to Seusing. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is also investigating the case.
Riley, who was admitted to an area hospital following the shooting, has since been released and is being held on bail until a probable cause hearing Friday at the 9th Circuit Court, Nashua District Division. Additional charges against Riley could be forthcoming. In a separate incident, Riley was arrested in 2007 for a robbery at Bill Cahill’s Super Subs in Hudson.