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Man who shot Manchester police officers to spend 5 years in state prison psych unit

Union Leader Correspondent

February 08. 2018 12:40PM
Ian MacPherson pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of two Manchester police officers in 2016. (Jason Schreiber/Correspondent)

About 50 Manchester police officers attended the sentencing of Ian MacPherson Thursday in Rockingham County Superior Court. (JASON SCHRIBER/CORRESPONDENT)

BRENTWOOD — A robbery suspect who shot two Manchester police officers in 2016 will spend at least five years in the state prison’s secure psychiatric unit after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to attempted murder charges.

In a courtroom filled with about 50 Manchester officers, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman sentenced 34-year-old Ian MacPherson for the shootings that injured officers Ryan Hardy and Matthew O’Connor on May 13, 2016.

While the former Queen City man admitted in court to shooting the officers, he will not be held criminally responsible because of his mental illness, including a diagnosis of schizophrenia. 

Schulman spoke while accepting the plea deal about MacPherson’s “severe delusional and psychotic behavior.” 

“It’s a very sad case,” he said.

Hardy and O’Connor appeared in court but didn’t speak as Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin recounted the events leading up to the shootings.

MacPherson, who despite his mental health history legally purchased the gun, was identified as a suspect in an armed robbery of a Manchester convenience store on May 12, 2016. Hardy spotted him on a city street the next day and called out to him to try to question him. 

Strelzin said MacPherson pulled out a semi-automatic handgun, raised it to Hardy’s face and fired.

Hardy was shot in the face and shoulder but managed to radio to dispatch that shots had been fired and provided a description of MacPherson’s direction.

Other officers eventually found him walking and yelled for him to put his hands up.

“I’m the one you’re looking for,” he told them before firing and striking O’Connor in the leg during a gun battle.

Following his arrest, authorities learned more about his history of mental illness.

Schulman spoke about a note MacPherson had left at a bar days before the shootings with “rambling and strange references” and talk about conspiracies and fictional crime families. 

Schulman also recalled a 700-page document found in MacPherson’s residence with the same conspiracy themes, appearing to support the idea that MacPherson suffered from “paranoid delusions.”

MacPherson could have faced life in prison if convicted of the attempted murder charges, but under the plea deal he was sentenced to the secure psychiatric unit at the state prison for the next five years.

It’s possible he could remain in the unit beyond the five years, depending on his condition.

“This is the outcome that’s dictated by the law and the facts. Unfortunately, this is a defendant who had a longstanding mental health issue and it went extremely bad over the course of a couple of nights and two police officers almost lost their lives, so this is the best resolution that we can hope for. Obviously, the hope is that this defendant gets the help he needs and doesn’t hurt anyone else in the future,” Strelzin said after the hearing.

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard praised the actions of the injured officers and others who assisted, calling them “courageous and heroic.”

“Officer Hardy was out there protecting the citizens of Manchester knowing he’s probably confronting an armed individual. He got shot in the face. He got shot in the shoulder, yet undaunted and courageously he puts out information over the radio for other officers to know who he encountered,” he said.

Willard said other officers continued to search for MacPherson knowing they could be shot at as well.

“Sure enough, officer O’Connor was then shot in the leg in that brief gun battle,” the chief said.

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