Family’s call for help leads to death of beloved Gilford teen

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 01-06-2023 12:00 PM

Mischa Fay got his boating license when he was 15 and would often take solo sailing trips around Lake Winnipesaukee. He was a “Star Wars” fanatic who was an encyclopedia of trivia. Like a lot of 17-year-olds, he loved pizza and hot sauce.

More than anything, he was passionate about hockey. He played for the Lakers and the New England Wolves at the Merrill Fay Area, the Laconia ice rink that bears his family’s name. It was like his second home.

Over the past year, Mischa’s mental health began to decline. Records from the Gilford police department show that police were called to their home six times in the last year due to Mischa’s mental health and behavior.

The family called 911 on the evening of Jan. 1, asking for assistance from police because Mischa had a knife and was in a rage.

At 9:56 p.m., two officers arrived at the house, and within two minutes, one officer discharged a Taser and the other officer shot Mischa in the chest. Mischa was given CPR at home, but he was pronounced dead at a local hospital. An autopsy revealed that he was killed by a single gunshot.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office said the incident is “actively under investigation,” and the names of the officers involved are being withheld until the conclusion of formal interviews. Both responding officers wore body cameras but the footage has not yet been made public.

Mischa’s obituary illustrates how much his family, friends, coaches and teachers loved him, including the healthcare professionals he had worked with in the previous two years, who “adored” him.

Seven emergency calls were made from the home since February 2022 for Mischa’s safety and health concerns, according to police dispatch logs. One was a hang-up call from Mischa when he was refusing to take his medication. Another time was for assistance with a medical call.

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Every call was the family asking for help with Mischa’s mental health when he began acting out of control or destroying things at home, according to Gilford police logs.

Unfortunately, fatal police encounters with people experiencing a mental health crisis is not uncommon in New Hampshire. The Monitor’s ‘Shots Fired’ series from 2021 examined the number of people with mental illnesses killed by police officers in New Hampshire over the last decade. According to the findings, more than 60% of those killed had clear signs of mental illness.

Susan Stearns, the executive director of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the episode is heartbreaking, but it’s also a call to action to train more officers in crisis intervention.

“There are a lot of law enforcement officers in the state who haven’t been trained [in crisis intervention],” Stearns said. “The other piece is that making sure that law enforcement only respond when they absolutely have to.”

His family asked that people donate to any youth hockey organization or sponsor a child to skate, and watch a “Star Wars” movie with a child in Mischa’s memory.

“Family meant everything to Mischa, and he was everything to his family,” they wrote. “Mischa was so kind, sweet, soft-spoken, polite, and very giving – always thinking of others.”

If you need help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

NH Rapid Response Access Point: Call or text 833-710-6477 for 24/7 immediate access to mental health and/or substance use crisis support.

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