Secrecy common in officer shootings
The secrecy that typically shrouds such shootings can cause frustration, but police from across the state say the whole story eventually comes out.
Standard protocol in police departments throughout New Hampshire as well as state law restrict use of deadly force. According to RSA 627:5, an officer is justified in using deadly force only when it is reasonable to believe that it's necessary in order to defend the officer or a third party.
"We investigate them like we do all homicide cases. We secure the scene, speak to witnesses, collect evidence, do forensic testing as needed and if possible, and then apply the law to the facts to reach a determination," he said in an email last week.
The two Weare officers who were involved in last week's shooting are on leave and won't return until the investigation is completed, said Sgt. Joe Kelley, who referred all questions about the shooting to the Attorney General's Office.
That period between when a shooting occurs and when the investigation is completed can be frustrating for officers, said Hillsborough Police Chief David Roarick, because there's only a limited amount of information released to the public in the early stages. In 2011, two Hillsborough police officers shot and killed Shelly D. Naroian when she brandished a weapon during an altercation.
"The level of detail out there (initially) can't be the whole story in order to protect all of the parties involved, including the person who was shot," he said. "It's only fair that when the information is released, it's right."
"It's frustrating when you know what the truth is and you hear other things that are inaccurate, but you can't say anything because it could jeopardize the investigation," he said. "But I guess it's just the nature of the beast. It's the way it has to be to be fair to everybody."
Every year, police officers are required to attend a four-hour training session regarding the use of deadly force, said Capt. Benjamin Jean of the Police Standards and Training Council.
And sometimes not even seconds, said Chief Alex Scott of Claremont, where an officer-involved shooting in 2008 resulted in the death of Anthony Jarvis, who shot Trooper Phillip Gaiser during an altercation in Jarvis' trailer. The Attorney General's Office found that Gaiser's actions were appropriate.
"It's a life-altering event," he said. "In the incident in Claremont, the officers involved were in counseling for a very long time."
In Durham, Kelley said, there was both an internal investigation and an investigation by the Attorney General's Office.
"We offer them counseling if they are inclined to go along with that," he added, "and prior to returning to work, they have to be cleared through a department-chosen mental health professional to be sure they are mentally prepared to come back to work."