UPDATED: NH attorney general says Dover police shooting justified
State authorities said Tuesday that Dover police were justified last month when they wounded Frank Thompson during a shootout at his Northway Circle apartment. The shootout preceded his suicide.
Thompson, 50, died Sept. 30 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to an autopsy. The shootout involved Dover police and New Hampshire State Police troopers and was followed by tear-gas volleys into his apartment and the deployment of a remotely operated police robot.
“When the officers fired their weapons, each did so in response to the gunfire directed by Frank Thompson in their direction or in the direction of their fellow officers,” reads the conclusion of a six-page summary into Attorney General Joseph Foster’s investigation. “And, though they directed deadly force towards Thompson, he did not in fact die from police gunfire, but by a self-inflicted gunshot wound from his own gun.”
Thompson had received a gunshot wound to his lower abdomen and probably would have survived it had he surrendered and received medical attention, the summary reads. Assistant Attorney General Janice Rundles said it’s likely Thompson received the wound from police, but that may never be certain.
The report also raises questions about Thompson’s mental state.
Tests found the presence of several prescription drugs in his system, drugs used to fight pain, anxiety and depression. One neighbor described Thompson as “in a psychotic state;” another said he looked strange and his eyes were not right.
When a neighbor entered his apartment to borrow a cup of sugar, he struck her in the head with a hammer three times.
Rundles, who oversaw the investigation, said she has no official information about whether Thompson was being treated for a mental illness, but she noted the drugs in his system — acetaminophen, hydrocodone, tramadol, klonopin, and cymbalta — are consistent with mental illness.
She said there is not likely to be much further investigation, and she does not believe his illness would have disqualified him from a weapon purchase. Rundles said federal authorities did a trace on the black High Point .45-caliber handgun and determined he purchased it.
The summary names the officers involved in the shootout — Dover police Lt. Brad Gould, Officer Andrew Choi and state police Trooper Christopher Storm. Rundles said they were on paid leave until the shooting was deemed justified.
According to emails that Thompson’s family shared with investigators, he had suspected a neighbor, Misty Sullivan, 32, of stealing money from him. He wrote about possibly executing her and shooting police if they tried to bully him out of the apartment.
After being struck by the hammer, Sullivan fled Thompson’s apartment, only to have him grab her in the hall, she told police. Thompson told Sullivan she would die if she wouldn’t be with him. When her mother and step-father, who lived across the hall, came to her rescue, Thompson pointed a handgun at them.
They retreated into their apartment and called police.
When police arrived, several stayed outside with rifles, while others inside the apartment building told Thompson to exit peacefully. At one point he said “no thank you.”
Police heard the deadbolt unlock, the door opened, and Thompson fired at police.
Gould and Storm returned fire from the hallway. Choi, who was at the back entrance, fired with a rifle.
Later, Gould realized that a bullet had pierced his pant leg.
Dover police, state police and the Strafford Regional Tactical Operations Unit then brought in the state police robot. After two volleys of teargas were shot into the apartment, the robot entered and found Thompson on the bed, breathing and in a fetal position.
The robot tried to remove covers to see if he was holding a gun. But Thompson rolled out of the bed onto the floor and crawled into the living room. Police shouted through bullhorns for him to exit the apartment and receive medical attention.
But he found his gun, shot at a closet and then put it to the left side of his chest and pulled the trigger.
“Officers directing the robot could see that Thompson’s gun was now in the “lock back” (empty) position. They therefore directed the robot to retrieve the gun from Thompson’s hand and bring it out of the apartment,” the summary reads.
Police then entered the apartment, moved Thompson into the hallway and determined he was dead.