Haverhill police respond to lawsuit over fatal shooting
CONCORD — The Haverhill Police Department and three of its officers are denying in court documents that they violated the rights of a man police shot and killed in July 2015.
The department and officers Ryan Jarvis and Gregory Collins, who fatally shot Hagen Esty-Lennon, 41, in Bath, and Sgt. Wallace Trott, who went to the scene after the shooting, all maintain the shooting was justified, just as the New Hampshire Attorney General ruled.
They filed written responses last month in U.S. District Court to a lawsuit filed by Donna Esty of Hebron, Esty-Lennon’s mother.
The lawsuit alleges wrongful death, violation of civil rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision and training, among other claims. Esty contends the unconstitutional policies and practices of the Haverhill Police Department caused the “unjustified shooting” of Esty-Lennon, 41, of Bath.
The July 6, 2015, shooting was recorded on police video, including body cameras. The N.H. Attorney General’s Office ruled it “legally justified.”
The day he was shot, Esty-Lennon had crashed his SUV on a bridge in Bath and had what appeared to be a “self-inflicted” knife wound to his chest, according to the attorney general’s report.
Jarvis and Collins arrived and saw Esty-Lennon with a knife walking on Route 302. They told him to drop it, but he didn’t, investigators said. The edited videos authorities released showed Esty-Lennon with the knife, initially walking toward police as they back up, then turning to run away. When Jarvis and Collins start to chase him, Esty-Lennon turns around to charge at them. The video cuts off before shots are fired. He was pronounced dead later at a Woodsville hospital.
Esty said in her lawsuit that Jarvis and Collins fired 10 times, striking Esty-Lennon six times and fatally wounding him “without provocation.” Esty-Lennon was a significant distance away, had no firearm, was plainly dazed and previously injured, according to her lawsuit. He had a chest wound when police first encountered him and was visibly disoriented after having crashed his car, she said. Esty says a reasonable officer should have recognized that an accident victim could have a head injury, be disoriented, in shock and not in a clear state of mind. “That victim should not be shot down,” according to the lawsuit. The department and the officers all have cited an “affirmative defense” and qualified immunity which protects police from civil liability. The case is set for trial in March 2018.