Gilford officer who fatally shot teen knew of mental illness

By Staff and wire reports

Published: 01-09-2023 8:11 PM

The two Gilford police officers had both responded to the Fay family home twice before they were involved in the New Year’s Day shooting death of 17-year-old Mischa Fay, who had a known history of mental illness.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office announced that Officer Nathan Ayotte and Sgt. Douglas Wall arrived at a Gilford home after authorities received a 911 call about Mischa Fay armed with a knife.

Within two minutes of arriving, Ayotte discharged a stun gun and Wall shot Fay in the chest. The teenager died from a single gunshot wound, an autopsy determined.

Police records show multiple 911 calls from the residence during the past year seeking assistance with Mischa Fay’s mental health. Both Ayotte and Wall had responded to the house both separately and together, and knew of the teen’s mental health history.

Seven emergency calls were made from the home since February 2022 related to concerns for Mischa’s safety and health, 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, and Wall was the officer to respond.

Both Ayotte and Wall responded to the family home on Sept. 14 at 2:44 p.m. for a report that Mischa had “trashed the house.” Within an hour, he was transported to the hospital.

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.

“Such incidents are tragedies for the victim, their family, the law enforcement officers involved and their families, as well as entire communities,” the organization said in a statement.

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NAMI cited data from the Monitor’s ‘Shots Fired’ series that found more than 60% of those killed by police in New Hampshire in the past two decades had clear signs of mental illness.

“Together, we must advocate for policies and support to ensure Granite Staters impacted by mental illness are able to access resources necessary to live full lives in their community – lives that are not cut short through tragedy or untreated co-morbid conditions,” the organization said in a statement. “Preventing such tragic outcomes requires a multi-faceted approach.”

Wall has spent 28 years in law enforcement, 22 of those with the Gilford Police Department. He served 4 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, according to Gilford Police.

Ayotte recently completed a Jiu-Jitsu in Law Enforcement program to safely and effectively control resistive subjects, which is intended to reduce injury to both officers and suspects, according to Gilford Police.

The officers involved, who were uninjured, have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard practice, and investigators said they were both wearing body cameras.

The Attorney General’s Office investigates to determine whether the use of deadly force was justified. The office will release a report once the investigation is completed.

The state does not have a Mental Health Incident Review Panel that could review incidents involving police use of deadly force by law enforcement by focusing on mental health and reviewing events in the preceding months/days/hours leading to the event.

“NAMI-NH strongly urges the N.H. legislature implement the review panel so that such incidents can be examined, learned from, and policies, procedures and services enacted that may prevent future tragedies,” the organization said.