A Look at Recent Police Shootings in New Hampshire

Jul 8, 2016

In a week where violence by and against police has dominated the news, from Louisiana to Minnesota to Texas, we thought we’d take a look at recent police shootings in New Hampshire.

Since the beginning of 2015, four people have died at the hands of police officers in the state, and two police officers have been been shot, both surviving those incidents.

New Hampshire is home to a slow and steady string of violent encounters between police and citizens. The Concord Monitor recently reported that 32 civilians and at least 10 police officers have been shot in the state since 2005. And the New Hampshire Union Leader reported the Attorney General’s office is slow to release the names of officers who shoot people. The AG’s office defended that position to the Union Leader, even though the federal Department of Justice and a White House task force recently urged authorities to quickly release names.

According to a database created by The Washington Post, 509 people have been fatally shot by police so far in 2016, and that number is higher than the same period in 2015. The Post concluded that since police shot and killed an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri two years ago, an increasing number of police shootings have been caught on camera – in videos taken by both amateurs and police-operated dashboard and body cameras.

In New Hampshire, the five most recent high-profile shootings don’t reflect the national narrative about police and race, but they do mirror a less publicized national trend related to mental illness. The four most recent victims of police shootings here were white, and those four men, as well as the man who shot two officers in Manchester, suffered from mental health problems.

Here’s a quick synopsis of those five incidents.

On June 21, 2016, police in Peterborough shot and killed Lane Lesko, a 21-year-old white male, after a brief car chase. Lesko was from Michigan, and his mother said her son suffered from mental illness. Lesko had disappeared from a camping trip to Lake Umbegog – on the border of Maine and New Hampshire about a three hour drive from Peterborough – a week prior to being killed by police.

On May 13, 2016, Manchester police officer Ryan Hardy approached 32-year-old Ian MacPherson, who matched the description of a man who had recently robbed a gas station. MacPherson shot Officer Hardy in the face and torso, fled the scene, and soon after shot Officer Matthew O’Connor in the leg before fleeing a second time. Both officers survived, and MacPherson pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted capital murder. Russell MacPherson, the shooter’s father, has told the media his son suffered from serious mental health problems.

On September 3, 2015, police responded to a call in Merrimack after Harrison Lambert threatened his father with a knife. Officers fatally shot Lambert, a 23-year-old white male, when he lunged at them with the knife. Lambert’s father says his son suffered from mental illness.

On July 6, 2015, police shot and killed Hagen Etsy-Lennon. Police encountered Etsy-Lennon on the side of the road after he stabbed himself in the chest. Police then shot Etsy-Lennon, a 41-year-old white male who had served in the U.S. Army, while he was charging them with a knife. The incident was recorded on an officer’s body camera.

On January 21, 2015, police shot and killed a man in Derry. Andrew Toto’s wife had called 911 to report her husband was suicidal, driving around with a shotgun, and possibly trying to get shot by police. After locating Toto’s truck, Toto shot at police from 90 yards away.  Police then shot and killed Toto, a 54-year-old white male.