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Pelham officer on confrontation: 'He was asking me to shoot him'

Union Leader Correspondent

March 30. 2017 6:53PM
From left, Pelham master patrol officer Brian Kelly, Sgt. Glenn Chase, and master patrol officer Bismark Montano. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)

PELHAM — Firing on Christopher Lanzillo would have been a last resort for master patrol officer Brian Kelly, who answered a call Wednesday about a man fighting with his brothers and found the Pelham man outside his home on the street, wielding a knife.

“He was asking me to shoot him, which I really didn’t want to have to do and that went on for a little while,” Kelly said Thursday as he recalled the tense encounter on Burns Road with the shirtless 34-year-old — all captured by a dash camera mounted inside a cruiser.

The video, which police shared on their Facebook page, shows the incident from the time Kelly arrived to the moment police were able to convince a clearly agitated Lanzillo to drop the knife and surrender. No one was hurt.

Police were told an intoxicated man had assaulted one of his brothers and used a knife to damage another brother’s vehicle.

“I got out of my car and drew my weapon and told him to drop the knife. He refused and things progressed from there,” Kelly said.

Kelly can be heard on the dashcam video repeatedly asking Lanzillo to put down the knife as Lanzillo shouted profanities; officers said he threatened to use the knife against them.

At the same time, students from nearby Pelham High were attempting to walk down the street on the way home from school, police said.

About 40 seconds after Kelly arrived, master patrol officer Ryan Donovan showed up, followed by Sgt. Glenn Chase and master patrol officer Bismark Montano.

Chase said officers used their training and past experience to remain calm and to keep the scene calm.

“You see a lot of situations like this that don’t have the same results,” he said.

Kelly also knew the situation could take a tragic turn if Lanzillo had charged toward officers or anyone else with the knife.

“Situations like this have the potential to go very poorly and I was just hoping it wouldn’t and was reverting back to training and de-escalation, but also keeping myself and other officers and citizens safe as well as the suspect,” Kelly said.

Dashcam video of the confrontation can be viewed below (WARNING: contains profanity):

Kelly and other officers said they were relieved when Lanzillo finally dropped the knife and surrendered.

“I don’t think it could have gone any better than it did. Everybody went home safe. Everybody who needs help is getting help. I couldn’t be more proud of the officers I work with,” Kelly said.

Montano was the last to arrive at the scene, but was well aware of what fellow officers were up against.

“It was great teamwork ... Like the other officers said, it could have been a bad, bad outcome,” he said.

The Pelham Police Department, which recently became nationally accredited, has had dash cameras in cruisers since 2003. Chase said it was important to release the video because it shows the restraint used by the officers and the situations police face on a daily basis.

Lanzillo is charged with criminal threatening with a deadly weapon, simple assault, disorderly conduct and four counts of criminal mischief. The complaints accuse him of hitting a brother with a chair, damaging property, threatening officers and spitting on a cruiser window.

He was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail at his arraignment in Salem Circuit Court on Thursday.

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