Attorney general: Fatal officer-involved shooting stemming from mental health call justified

GEOFF FORESTER

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 06-12-2024 4:07 PM

Modified: 06-12-2024 5:24 PM


The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has concluded that four Manchester police officers were justified in the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Alex Naone.

The incident occurred on May 26, 2023 following a 911 call from Naone’s fiancée, Shannon Fogerty, who reported that he was holding a gun to his head and making suicidal statements.

At approximately 3:35 a.m., officers from the Manchester Police Department were dispatched to Fogerty’s apartment at 1143 Mammoth Road in Manchester, where the situation was recorded in the dispatch log as a mental health issue.

After a year-long review of the case, which included scrutiny of body camera footage, the Attorney General’s office determined that the use of deadly force by officers Jeffrey Belleza, Robert Bifsha, Stephen Choate, and Patrick Ruddell was “legally justified.”

Similarly, the shooting of 17-year-old Mischa Fay in Gilford on New Year’s Day in 2023 was also deemed justified by the Attorney General’s office, marking a trend where officer-involved shootings, particularly in mental health crises, are frequently justified in New Hampshire.

When officers arrived at the scene, Naone was standing outside the apartment, holding a semi-automatic pistol in one hand and a bottle of alcohol in the other.

Just 15 days before the incident, Naone was arrested by the Manchester Police Department for criminal mischief, which included throwing “full beer cans at the windows” of his fiancée’s apartment. As per his bail conditions, Naone was prohibited from contacting his fiancée, entering her property at 1143 Mammoth Road, and using drugs, alcohol, or possessing firearms.

Initially, he complied with the officers’ commands, placing the gun down by his feet. However, when they asked for his cooperation, Naone responded, “Shoot me. That’s what I want. Shoot me,” according to the Attorney General’s report.

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Then at one point, Naone looked towards a window and told his daughter he loved her, then made the sign of the cross. He picked up the pistol from the ground, cycled the action of the gun, ejecting a live round and chambering another.

Naone raised the pistol to his head, prompting the four officers to open fire.

The autopsy report revealed that Naone sustained seven gunshot wounds, including to his chest, abdomen, upper and lower back and both elbows. He was transported to Elliot Hospital but was declared dead.

In separate interviews, the officers described the moments leading up to the shooting.

Before the officers shot at Naone, Officer Belleza, the only one of the four not trained in Crisis Intervention Team techniques said Naone approached the apartment door, took a deep breath, exhaled, and said, “Tell them I love them.”

He then turned his back to the door, made the sign of the cross and kissed the sky.

In the interviews with the investigators, the four officers said that Naone’s gun was directly pointed at them as he raised it to his head.

Officer Ruddell noted that Naone hesitated when he brought the gun to his temple.

“Maybe like a split-second or second hesitation where he didn’t pull the trigger, at which point I felt it was imminent that he was going to turn the gun on us and force us to end his life,” Ruddell said.

According to the Attorney General’s report, Naone’s fiancée had stated that he had “depression and a problem with drugs.”

An analysis conducted by the Monitor reveals that approximately two-thirds of individuals killed by police in New Hampshire over the past decade had a history of mental illness.

Neighboring states like Maine and Vermont have implemented boards combining the perspectives of law enforcement, mental health advocates, and individuals with lived experience to review such incidents and suggest systemic improvements. However, efforts to establish a similar mental health incident board in New Hampshire have stagnated since an attempt in 2022.