Father of man shot by Weare police: 'What I want is justice for my son'
MANCHESTER — Alex Cora DeJesus was unarmed and had no illicit drugs on him when Weare police fatally shot him in the head as he and his girlfriend tried to drive away from what police have called an undercover drug operation that went wrong, Jose Cora said Tuesday.
"They shot my son. They killed my son. And there was no need for it," Cora, 56, said.
"What I want is justice for my son," he added.
Cora was upset to learn the two Weare police officers who shot at DeJesus, 35, on Aug. 14 were allowed to return to work, wear their uniforms and carry their service weapons.
"That's not right," he said in Spanish through an interpreter. "They are supposed to be suspended ... And they are back on duty with guns."
Weare Police Chief John Velleca said he has the two officers handling administrative duties to help out a short-staffed department. They wear their uniforms, badges and carry their weapons and can go out on emergency patrol calls if needed.
Like many others, Cora is waiting for the New Hampshire Attorney General's office to release its findings on whether the officers were justified in their use of deadly force.
Attorney General Joseph A. Foster will not identify the officers until the report is released.
Cora blames the delay on an attempt to "cover up" what happened.
"They are trying to turn it and twist it and to justify the killing of my son. They are hoping I will go away and I told them I would never go away," Cora added.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan G. Morrell said she cannot comment on the factual findings of the case to date.
But, she said, Cora's "information is not entirely accurate."
"This criminal investigation is ongoing and we expect it to continue into the next few months," Morrell wrote in an email.
Struck in forehead
DeJesus, who worked as a barber and lived at 453 Maple St., was shot about 10:10 p.m. outside Dunkin' Donuts at Lanctot's Plaza on Route 114 in Weare during an investigation into heroin dealing, the Attorney General's Office has said.
Several Weare police officers, two confidential informants and DeJesus — whom prosecutors describe as a suspected heroin dealer — were present, authorities said.
DeJesus tried to drive away in his father's Acura with his girlfriend in the front seat beside him, Cora explained. Two shots rang out, he said. The first passed through the car without hitting anyone, the father said. While his girlfriend ducked, DeJesus looked back to see what was happening when the second bullet struck him in the forehead, his father said.
The car went off Route 114 and crashed a short distance later. Two undercover police cars in close pursuit also collided. Neither officer was hurt.
"The bottom line is my son didn't have a gun and they chased him, and they shot at him. They shot him knowing he didn't have any weapon," Cora said.
"They just opened fire," he added during an interview at the Welcome Home, a rooming house and transitional shelter at 286 Concord St. where Cora has lived for 16 months. Julio Chea, the director and manager of Welcome Home, served as interpreter.
Cora said he "knows everything that happened and how it happened" because his son's girlfriend was an eyewitness to the entire event. He said she has not been charged with any crime in connection with the Aug. 14 incident. He would not give her name.
Not only were there no illicit drugs found in the car, an autopsy found none in his son's body and his girlfriend tested negative for the presence of drugs, Cora said.
Asked if authorities are correct in describing his son as a suspected heroin dealer, Cora said he doesn't know. But he insists his son never carried guns.
"If I knew my son was dealing and wheeling and living with guns and all that, I would have nothing to do with him," Cora said.
According to court records, Nashua police charged DeJesus in 2009 and 2011 for selling small amounts of cocaine to confidential informants. DeJesus pleaded guilty to both counts and received suspended sentences.
Asked why his son went to Weare that night, Cora said: "I can't say. I really don't know."
Cora said he and his son were "best friends" and communicated daily.
Cora said he was never questioned by police.
He said his attorney, Lawrence A. Vogelman of Manchester, advised him not to discuss details of the case.
DeJesus' girlfriend was taken into custody at the shooting scene and taken to Goffstown District Court where she was charged with an unrelated, outstanding motor vehicle violation, Cora said. The woman spent 15 to 20 days at Hillsborough County House of Corrections to pay off the fine.
Police made many attempts to speak with her while she was in jail and after her release, Cora said. She has refused to meet with them without her attorney present, he added.
Vermont funeral home
DeJesus died about 3 a.m. Aug. 15. Cora said a state official called him that morning, but he didn't understand what he said because he spoke in English. Chea said he found Cora outside a McDonald's restaurant holding a sheet of paper with phone numbers on it. Chea called the numbers for Cora. It was then he learned Cora's son had been killed.
"I'm the one who told him he (his son) was dead," Chea said. Cora, he said, went into shock.
Cora said he went to the Medical Examiner's Office in Concord Aug. 16 to identify his son's body.
"They wouldn't let me see my son," he said. "They said it was still under investigation and they identified him through his wallet and his IDs."
It was only when the body was shipped to a Vermont funeral home that specializes in shipping remains to Puerto Rico that Cora first saw his son. He said he placed a hat on his son to cover the bullet hole in his email@example.com