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Concord man pleads guilty to reckless conduct in standoff

A Concord man admitted yesterday in court that he placed law enforcement officers in peril last year when he errantly fired a handgun during a 13-hour police standoff at his Hoit Road home, which began after relatives reported he might be suicidal.

Richard Jenness, 53, pleaded guilty to a Class B felony of reckless conduct in the Sept. 1, 2012, incident, and was sentenced to 12 months in county jail – all of which, excluding the 110 days that he served last year, is suspended upon good behavior. He was also ordered to reimburse $9,372 to the Concord Police Department for their involvement.

Jenness, who has suffered from depression for several years and who was intoxicated during the standoff, fired three bullets from inside the home, two of which shot through the floorboards. The third punched through a living room window and flew into the backyard, where a handful of officers had been stationed at the time. No one was hit.

Jenness’s attorney, David Hendricks, said during the hearing that his client “understands this incident could have been much worse, and he’s remorseful for that.”

“He certainly didn’t intend to harm anyone,” Hendricks said, adding: “Most people will tell you he’s a good person, he’s lived a good life and generally trying to do the right thing.”

The standoff began about 11 a.m., after authorities received a phone call from Jenness’s son, who said his father had just told him he was “sorry and that nothing was his son’s fault.” Jenness’s mother-in-law also called, expressing the same concern, according to an affidavit.

Jenness was alone when officers arrived at the home, which is in a wooded, relatively secluded area, and he could be seen pacing inside with a handgun. When contacted by an officer, he seemed impaired and refused to exit. City prosecutor Tracy Connolly said in a bail hearing on the case that Jenness had consumed two bottles of alcohol before barricading himself in the residence.

The police said at the time that they heard a gunshot shortly after 5 p.m. and another about 10 p.m. It’s unclear when the third shot was fired. After the first shot, SWAT teams from the Central New Hampshire Special Operations Unit and Belknap County were called in, and officers took up positions around the home and in the neighborhood, blocking off traffic and recommending to neighbors that they evacuate or go into their basements.

Though no one was injured by the bullet that traveled outside, Deputy County Attorney Catherine Ruffle said yesterday that the shot was especially dangerous because, due to the length of the standoff, officers had been moving about for shift changes.

Ruffle said Jenness’s behavior continued to appear erratic. He could be seen flicking lights on and off. At one point he emerged with the gun and told officers to shoot him, she said.

The police eventually shut power off to the home, and Jenness emerged unarmed about 12:30 a.m.

Jenness was released from jail late last year and has been attending counseling sessions for his depression, Hendricks said.

Ruffle said his admission yesterday was unexpected. The deadline for a plea bargain to be reached had passed earlier this month, and the case was scheduled to go to trial next week. Ruffle indicated in court that there had been a disagreement between the parties about whether the crime should be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Because the deadline had passed, Judge Richard McNamara did not have to accept the deal. He did so, however, noting that Jenness had no previous criminal record, had already served time and was actively addressing his health problems.

“You have taken the first steps to putting your life back together,” McNamara said. “And I’m hopeful you will continue to seek treatment.”

Jenness reiterated his attorney’s comments after the hearing, saying he had clearly made a mistake and that he was sorry to those whose lives he had placed in danger.

“It’s unfortunate that it occurred,” he said. “I apologize.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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