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Court documents reveal state trooper and officer accused Claremont sergeant of lying

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader

May 13. 2018 9:03PM




IAN KIBBE

CLAREMONT — A state trooper and Claremont police officer accused fired Claremont Sgt. Ian Kibbe of lying repeatedly about his search of a domestic abuse suspect’s residence in February, according to a court affidavit.

The document was filed last week in Sullivan County Superior Court upon Kibbe’s arraignment on six charges of an illegal search last Feb. 24 and then falsifying reports to superiors and a judge about how items were taken after the suspect’s arrest.

Through his attorney, Kibbe pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

This affidavit revealed for the first time State Trooper Eric Fosterling was the whistleblower, the first to report to superiors and Claremont police administrators that he observed Kibbe making what he thought was an “unlawful” search.

After investigators with Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald’s office approached Claremont Officer Mark Burch about the search he was involved in with Kibbe, Burch admitted he lied and had filed false reports of his own at Kibbe’s direction.

“During his proffer interview, Officer Burch stated in substance that he and Sgt. Kibbe had lied when they had claimed in their reports and the Gernstein Affidavit that some of the items they had seized were in “plain view,” wrote Todd Flanagan, deputy chief investigator with the Attorney General’s Office.

In March, Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase announced Kibbe and Burch were no longer employed by the department and were under investigation regarding a search the previous month.

Burch has not been charged with any crime.

This all revolved around the arrest of Christopher Ratcliffe of Claremont for violating a protective order.

In light of Kibbe’s arrest, all charges against Ratcliffe were dropped.

Claremont police officials said last week another 25 complaints that Kibbe and Burch were involved in have also been dismissed.

A woman told Claremont police last Feb. 23 Ratcliffe left voicemail and text messages despite a court order that he not have any contact with her.

Kibbe, Burch and Fosterling all began searching for Ratcliffe and at 1:30 in the morning of Feb. 24 they found him at 82 Pleasant St.

Fosterling told investigators that when the three entered the bedroom, Ratcliffe was belligerent, and fought off being handcuffed.

Kibbe later said he tased Ratcliffe for fear he would lunge at the officers.

The conduct alleged in the Kibbe complaint came after Ratcliffe was arrested and brought downstairs out of his apartment.

Fosterling said he heard Kibbe tell Burch they needed to return to Ratcliffe’s room.

“We should get that cell phone,” Kibbe said, according to Fosterling.

The trooper told investigators he thought it was said in a “sneaky” tone.”

According to the affidavit, Kibbe and Burch went back upstairs while Fosterling stayed behind because he thought anything taken would be a warrantless search and illegal.

“Trooper Fosterling described that they were gone for what felt like an eternity,” the affidavit said.

“When the two finally returned back downstairs, Sgt. Kibbe was carrying a box full of items and Officer Burch was carrying a rifle.”

According to Fosterling, Kibbe turned and said to the trooper, “We found this stuff in plain view.”

At the time of the arrest, Kibbe claimed he saw Ratcliffe glance towards a black backpack on the floor.

When they went back to the room, Kibbe said the backpack was open and he could see Glock bullets and a magazine loaded with bullets consistent with a Glock gun.

“I did not immediately seize what was in plain view since Christopher was becoming more belligerent,” Kibbe wrote in his report.

Kibbe and Burch said they thought Ratcliffe might have a Glock handgun that was stolen in January.

But Burch later told investigators he saw Kibbe open two sealed bags, a black suitcase next to the bed and a “messenger” bag from which he took out an expandable police baton, hypodermic needles and a Glock handgun

“To open the suitcase, Sgt. Kibbe had to unzip the top of the suitcase and then open the unzipped flap to see the contents of the suitcase,” Officer Burch told investigators according to the affidavit.

During the interview, investigator Flanagan said Burch, a police officer for less than a year under Kibbe’s direct supervision, knew this was a bad search.

“Officer Burch stated that at that point he became worried and thought to himself that ‘this was not good’ and ‘this is all going to be a mess’ but he did not say anything to Sgt. Kibbe,” the affidavit said.

Ratcliffe was arrested for being a convicted felon in possession of five different dangerous weapons found in his room.

Burch told investigators the only item he thought was legally seized was a rifle he spotted in the corner of the bedroom.

Sgt. Kibbe refused to be interviewed by investigators prior to his arrest.

Kibbe, of Springfield, Vt., is free on $5,000 cash bail. He was ordered to have no contact with Burch or Fosterling.

Kibbe is also the officer who shot and killed 25-year-old Claremont resident Cody LaFont in 2016, a shooting the Attorney General’s Office ruled was justified.

State prosecutors have said that case is being reviewed in light of this arrest. There were no witnesses to the fatal shooting, according to the state report on the incident.


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