Roughly a year and a half ago, Haverhill police officers shot and killed a 42-year-old man after he crashed his car in Bath, New Hampshire. His mother has filed suit against the police department and the individual officers involved in federal court, arguing there was no imminent risk to the officers’ safety. She is suing individually and as the executor of her son’s estate.
The case was originally filed in Grafton County Superior Court, but it was recently transferred to U.S. District Court. The mother is suing for wrongful death, violations of civil rights, civil conspiracy, negligent supervision and training, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and battery. In addition, she alleges that law enforcement violated police protocol. As defendants, she lists the Haverhill Police Department, the Grafton County Sheriff’s Office, two officers, and a sergeant. She alleges that the department’s unconstitutional policies resulted in the July 2015 shooting of her son.
On the day of the shooting, police found the son walking along Route 302 after he crashed his car into a boulder near the Bath Bridge. Reports state that he was staggering away from the accident, wielding a knife and resisting bystanders’ efforts to help. The man reportedly refused to put down his knife when asked by the police, and then he charged at the officers before being shot six times.
The chief of the Haverhill Police Department issued a statement in response, indicating that it was “unfortunate” that its dedicated police officers had been sued and maintaining the officers were justified in their actions. The statement noted that the matter had been comprehensively investigated by the attorney general’s office, and the officers’ actions were legally justified. Specifically, the Attorney General’s report concluded that the man’s conduct created a dangerous situation that escalated to a point at which the officers were justified in responding with deadly force.
State authorities released edited videos (one from a dashboard camera, three from body cameras) of the shooting. The videos depicted the minutes leading up to the man’s death but stopped abruptly in the moment before the officers fired. One video shows the man walking toward the officers in a blood-stained shirt and ignoring repeated commands to drop a knife. When the officers began to chase him, he turned around and started to lunge at the officers. In addition to cutting short before shots were fired, the videos also omit what occurred after the shots. A court blocked the complete release of the footage.
The lawsuit indicates that the officers fired 10 shots and struck the man six times, killing him “without provocation.” The lawsuit claims that he was a significant distance from the officers, was unarmed, and was clearly dazed and disoriented following his accident.
One officer approached the man while he was on the ground and then put his knee on the man’s back, grabbed his hair, and pushed his face into the pavement. He then handcuffed the man as he gasped for air, covered in blood. The man later died at a Woodsville hospital.
The lawsuit claims the Attorney General’s report concluding that the use of force was justified is “full of errors” and is part of a widespread pattern of state officers and officials fabricating events to protect the state.
A reasonable officer, the claim concludes, should have recognized that a car accident victim is not in a clear state of mind.
Media outlets argued that the videos should be released so that the public could decide if the police acted appropriately when they shot the man.
If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may need the assistance of a wrongful death lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.
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