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State to pay $750,000 to family of Canterbury woman killed by trooper

  • The windshield of the car driven by Wendy Lawrence. —Courtesy

  • Wendy Lawrence of Canterbury holds her newborn granddaughter months before she was fatally shot by a New Hampshire State Police trooper in Manchester. Courtesy



Monitor staff
Friday, November 10, 2017

The state of New Hampshire will pay $750,000 to the family of a Canterbury woman fatally shot by a State Police trooper in 2013.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and attorneys for the family of Wendy Lawrence agreed to the settlement this month, roughly three years after Lawrence’s oldest son, Michael Rand, filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Concord.

“It was in everyone’s interest to get closure for the family,” said Chuck Douglas, one of two lawyers representing Lawrence’s estate.

Lawrence, who was the subject of a high-speed chase on Interstate 93, was shot on a residential street in Manchester on the evening of Sept. 30, 2013. That pursuit ended when Chad Lavoie, a state police sergeant, boxed in Lawrence’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo at the intersection of Dave Street and Kennard Road, got out of his car and fired 11 shots in three seconds, killing Lawrence, according to court records.

Lawrence was shot four times – in the neck, chest and hand. She was taken to a local hospital where she died about an hour later.

Then Attorney General Joseph Foster ruled weeks later that Lavoie was justified in shooting Lawrence. Foster concluded Lavoie had reason to believe Lawrence was about to hit him with her car when he opened fire.

From the beginning, members of Lawrence’s family questioned the findings of the investigation by the attorney general’s office. After Lavoie was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, Lawrence’s mother, sister and oldest son approached Douglas and attorney Richard Lehmann to investigate the incident on their behalf.

As the administrator of his mother’s estate, Rand filed the federal civil lawsuit in December 2014. He did so seeking $2 million in wrongful-death damages, in addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

For years disagreements persisted over the events immediately preceding Lawrence’s death. Lavoie maintained Lawrence had rammed his cruiser and was preparing to do so again, only this time with him out of the vehicle and in her path of travel. Conversely, Rand argued Lawrence never struck Lavoie’s cruiser, and that he in fact hit her. Further, he accused Lavoie of acting carelessly by stepping in front of Lawrence’s car.

Lavoie tried unsuccessfully to get U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro to dispose of the lawsuit without a trial, arguing his employment as a trooper gave him immunity under state law.

After Barbadoro denied Laboie’s motion for summary judgment, the parties to the suit met Nov. 1 in an attempt to find a middle ground and negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a mediator.

On Monday, Senior Assistant Attorney General Karen Schlitzer notified the federal court the civil case had reached a settlement. Schlitzer could not be reached for comment Friday.

Lehmann told the Monitor that Rand and his family are glad to have the case behind them, and thankful to the collision consultants who assisted them.

“No amount of money can compensate Wendy’s family for the loss they suffered,” Lehmann said, “but I am glad that we were able to help them get some small measure of justice.”

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)