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Weare officer won't face charges in fatal shooting

April 23. 2014 10:38PM

A report from the state Attorney General's Office called an August drug sting that resulted in the fatal shooting of an alleged drug dealer "ill-conceived," but said the officer who fired the fatal shot will not face any criminal charges.

A 44-page report released Wednesday said the AG's Office was unable to determine if the conduct of Officer Nicholas Nadeau was justified when he shot suspected heroin dealer Alex Cora deJesus, 35, of Manchester at Lanctot's Plaza parking lot on Route 114 in Weare.

"The determination that Nadeau cannot be successfully prosecuted for a crime in connection with deJesus' death is not an endorsement of the police conduct that led to deJesus' death," the report said. "On the contrary, many aspects of the Weare PD's drug investigation and the implementation of the plan to capture deJesus were ill-conceived and obviously placed many police officers and private citizens at unnecessary risk."

When police vehicles moved to box in deJesus' vehicle on Aug. 14, deJesus attempted to flee in his vehicle and two officers fired at him, fatally striking deJesus, according to the report.

Manchester attorney Larry Vogelman, who represents the deJesus family, said he plans to a file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town of Weare, Nadeau and at least some of the other officers involved in the case.

"My overall reaction is from any fair reading of the report it was obvious from the beginning of this (drug) investigation right into the shooting of Mr. deJesus, it was one big screw-up," Vogelman told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Weare Police Chief John Velleca, who joined the force last November, said restricted duty for Nadeau and Sgt. Kenneth Cox, the other officer who fired his weapon at deJesus' vehicle, was lifted Wednesday.

Velleca said he will review the case to see whether any officers will be disciplined. Four of the five officers at the shooting scene, including Nadeau and Cox, remain on the force.

A fifth was fired for unrelated reasons, the chief said.

Velleca said discipline can range from nothing up to suspension. Any dismissals would need to come from selectmen.

"We need to be accountable; we need to be transparent with what we're doing," the chief said.

Susan Morrell, a senior assistant attorney general, said Attorney General Joseph Foster plans to talk to police chiefs across the state "as to how these investigations might be handled better and safer," including asking for assistance from the state police or the Attorney General's Drug Task Force.

"We had grave concerns regarding how this drug investigation was implemented," Morrell said.

Asked if deJesus should be alive today, Morrell said: "As critical as we are about the overall setup for this drug investigation, Mr. deJesus was also complicit in the events of that night."

The report said investigators were unable to resolve inconsistent testimony from the officers and civilians present at the shooting scene, concluding "the nature and extent of the inconsistencies present in this case are troubling."

Authorities went as far as having Weare police Officer Frank Jones secretly record conversations with Sgt. Cox. Jones said a confidential informant reported that Cox told the informant "as long as no one changes the story, we will be OK."

Cox refused to speak with Jones about the shooting incident during two recorded conversations "and no evidence or any lies or obstruction was obtained," the report said.

Morrell said investigators "used every investigative tool available to us to attempt to resolve those conflicts."

The report said prosecutors could not meet their burden to prove a criminal charge against Nadeau, saying "there is insufficient evidence to establish that Nadeau's mistaken belief was unreasonable beyond a reasonable doubt."

Among the report's findings:

• Nadeau gave different explanations as to why he fired his shotgun, including concern another officer was in the path of deJesus' vehicle and that deJesus was a danger to the public by driving on the roadway in a reckless manner.

• Nadeau thought he fired his shotgun twice, but investigators concluded he fired a single shot, which hit deJesus in the temple.

• A drug buy leading up to the fatal shooting took place at the Center Woods Elementary School in Weare.

Nadeau worked part time for a year in Mont Vernon before joining the Weare force as a full-time patrol officer in 2009.

Prior to his police work, he served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Infantry Division. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his service overseas.

Nadeau's attorney, Eric Wilson of Nashua, said he had no comment on the report.

DeJesus had prior convictions for cocaine sales in Nashua. At the time of the shooting, deJesus was also on probation. "As a result, deJesus likely fled from the police that night because he knew that his suspended state prison sentences could have been imposed if he had been arrested again... ," the report said.

Morrell said police recovered from deJesus' vehicle a personal use supply of suboxone, which Morrell said is "similar to oxycodone."

"There was no heroin in the car and no weapons," she said.

"Toxicology tests," the report said, "revealed that deJesus had several drugs in his system, including levels of cocaine and heroin, which suggest recent ingestion of the drugs prior to his death and substantial impairment at the time of the shooting."

In previous contacts with police, deJesus said he had no problems reading and writing English, but on one occasion said he sometimes had trouble verbally understanding English.

The investigation included calling "relevant witnesses" before a grand jury in February and March, the report said. Both the report and Morrell said no information about the grand jury could be released.

"The inability to reach a conclusion regarding justification is due to conflicting witness statements and a lack of sufficient corroborating evidence, both from witnesses and the physical evidence," the report said.

Velleca said he has investigated between 25 and 35 officer-involved shootings as chief of detectives in New Haven, Conn.

"In traumatic incidents, they often give conflicting accounts just because they don't remember it," he said. But physical evidence helps sort out what happened. "The problem with this case is there's not a whole lot of physical evidence at the scene," Velleca said.

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