Attorney General says Bath fatal shooting by police was justified
BATH — Nearly four weeks since two Haverhill police officers shot and killed a man here on Route 302, Attorney General Joseph Foster on Friday issued a 14-page report that concluded the shooting was legally justified.
Foster also said that video of the July 6 shooting that was recorded by the officers’ body cameras will be released on Monday to the family of Hagen Esty-Lennon, and then on Aug. 5 in response to several Right-To-Know requests.
Born in Plymouth and raised in Hebron, Esty-Lennon, 41, of Canterbury, was a 1992 graduate of Newfound Regional High School in Bristol who served in the U.S. Army from 1993 to 1997. He was a former New Hampshire state corrections officer; a divorced father of two young children, and, most recently, he was working as a chef and manager at the New Hampshire Technical Institute.
Attorney Peter McGrath, who represents Esty-Lennon’s mother, Donna Esty of Hebron, called the Attorney General’s report “very upsetting and very disconcerting,” adding that “we may ask for an independent grand jury investigation.”
A former federal prosecutor, McGrath said he and Esty “still have a lot of questions” about why Esty-Lennon was fatally shot but said they will consider next steps after seeing the video of the incident.
“It’s interesting that they waited to release the video until after the story to fit the evidence,” said McGrath, noting that “it seems to be a pattern in New Hampshire of over-aggressive police.” McGrath said the video should have been turned over to the family within 48 hours of the shooting.
Although the video remains to be seen by the public, Foster’s report is consistent with statements the attorney general made in a news release soon after shooting about what was recorded by the body cameras worn by Haverhill officers Ryan Jarvis and Greg Collins, both of whom were identified for the first time Friday.
As Foster said previously, but in greater detail yesterday, the video shows the 43 seconds of interaction between the officers and Esty-Lennon, who minutes earlier, for reasons that remain unknown, and while suffering from what Foster said appears to be a self-inflicted stab wound to the chest, attempted to drive his SUV over the closed Bath Bridge near the intersection of routes 112 and 302.
Hearing the crash, people from the Twin River Campground, which is located directly across from the bridge on the south side of Route 112, went to the scene and made 911 calls to report the crash. They also said that Esty-Lennon was carrying a knife and was proceeding southbound on Route 302.
When Jarvis and Collins arrived, they repeatedly told Esty-Lennon — whom Foster said was 6-feet-one inch tall and weighed 275 pounds — to stop advancing toward them and to drop the knife.
Collins initially took out his electric stun gun, but when Esty-Lennon suddenly charged toward him and Jarvis, coming to between 10 and 15 feet of them, both officers fired their .45 caliber handguns at him.
The officers each fired five rounds, striking Esty-Lennon a total of six times. Although still alive when taken away by ambulance, Esty-Lennon was pronounced dead at Cottage Hospital in nearby Woodsville.
Foster’s report said a toxicology test found that Esty-Lennon had what were described as “slightly higher than therapeutic levels” of amphetamines in his system as well as the anti-convulsive and anti-anxiety drug Klonopin.
In speaking with Esty-Lennon’s landlady, the report said investigators were told about his recent behavior which suggested to them that he may have been suffering from hallucinations, and that on July 6 he may have suffered a mental health issue and wanted to harm himself or to commit suicide.
As to that point, McGrath said that in speaking with a physician, he was told that someone in a motor-vehicle accident may be in shock or have a brain injury, “and the police should be aware of that.”
“This is a tragedy for everyone,” McGrath summed up.