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Ex-Claremont Officer Faces Criminal Charges

  • Ian Kibbe, 30, of Springfield, Vt.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2018

Newport — A former Claremont police sergeant was charged on Thursday with lying about how he discovered weapons during an arrest earlier this year after a state trooper raised concerns about the search and a fellow Claremont officer told investigators that the police report was falsified, according to documents filed in Sullivan Superior Court.

Ian Kibbe, 30, was arrested on Thursday and charged with counts of conspiracy to commit perjury and attempted perjury, as well as two counts each of unsworn falsification and obstructing government administration, according to a news release issued by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

Kibbe, of Springfield, Vt., was released on $5,000 cash bail and will be arraigned in Sullivan Superior Court in Newport on May 7.

The charges followed a March investigation by the Attorney General’s Office into written reports by Kibbe and another Claremont police officer, Mark Burch. Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase provided information that suggested the two officers had falsified documentation related to a search conducted in Claremont in late February, according to the release.

Their employment with the Claremont force ended in March, Chase has said.

A 14-page affidavit from Todd Flanagan, the deputy chief investigator in the Attorney General’s Office, filed in the Newport courthouse outlines the basis for the two felony and four misdemeanor charges against Kibbe.

The case started on March 15, when Chase and Claremont Police Capt. Alex Lee contacted the Attorney General’s Office and indicated two officers may have engaged in criminal conduct. They received their information from Claremont Police Capt. Brent Wilmot, who had been in contact with New Hampshire State Police Trooper Eric Fosterling. Fosterling, a former police officer in Claremont, was with Kibbe and Burch, a new officer, on the day in question.

Fosterling said he had concerns about the Feb. 24 arrest of Claremont resident Christopher Ratcliffe and the subsequent search of Ratcliffe’s bedroom. He said he believed Kibbe and Burch unlawfully seized items from Ratcliffe’s room.

Kibbe and Burch asserted in reports that several weapons they found in Ratcliffe’s room were found “in plain view,” which is an exception to the search warrant requirement.

However, Fosterling told authorities he didn’t see any of the items that Kibbe and Burch recovered in plain view in Ratcliffe’s room. And later in March, Burch told investigators that he and Kibbe falsified their reports, according to the affidavit.

Fosterling, Kibbe and Burch had gone to 82 Pleasant St. in Claremont around 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 24 to arrest Ratcliffe for violating a protective order the day before.

The officers entered Ratcliffe’s bedroom, where he was sleeping, to take him into custody, but Ratcliffe resisted, forcing Kibbe to fire his stun gun. Ratcliffe was arrested, taken outside and placed in a cruiser.

Kibbe then allegedly said aloud that the officers should go back inside and recover a cellphone in Ratcliffe’s bedroom. Burch said he didn’t remember seeing a cellphone in plain view, but went along with Kibbe’s idea. Fosterling described that exchange as being done in a “sneaky” tone, according to Flanagan’s affidavit.

The three officers then re-entered the home. There are conflicting reports about who stayed in what part of the house. Fosterling told authorities Kibbe and Burch both immediately went upstairs into Ratcliffe’s room, but Burch recalled Kibbe staying downstairs with Fosterling for a period of time before going upstairs.

Once in the bedroom, Kibbe wrote in his sworn affidavit in connection with Ratcliffe’s case, he saw in plain view bullets, a magazine and a pistol in an open backpack. He wrote that Burch found a rifle in the corner and that Burch saw in an opened suitcase an expandable police baton, among other items. Kibbe claimed he saw two hatchets and a large knife near Ratcliffe before the men arrested him.

Kibbe wrote in his affidavit that the men “seized all that were in plain view.” Ratcliffe is a convicted felon, according to the affidavit, so he can’t possess weapons.

Fosterling said the two Claremont police officers were in the bedroom for a while and he recalls hearing them “rustling around” and “moving and manipulating items in the room.” He also recalled Kibbe immediately telling him “we found this stuff in plain view” when Kibbe came back downstairs after the search.

After Fosterling spoke to authorities, investigators interviewed Burch under a “proffer agreement.” Under such arrangements, the statements Burch made can’t be used against him, but prosecutors still could bring charges.

Burch told investigators that he and Kibbe had lied in their reports; Kibbe wrote the affidavit in support of probable cause to arrest Ratcliffe, and Burch wrote a supplemental report.

When Burch entered the room, he said, he saw a cellphone on the bed that Ratcliffe had been sleeping in. He seized that item and took note of a rifle he saw in the corner of the bedroom. He then went downstairs to call and confirm that Ratcliffe was a convicted felon, he said.

But when both Kibbe and Burch went upstairs, Burch said, Kibbe opened a black suitcase, exposing an expandable baton, according to the affidavit. Burch also said that Kibbe then opened a black bag, uncovering a handgun, a magazine and a holster.

Burch, who had been on the Claremont force for less than a year, told investigators he grew uneasy, so he began looking inside a moving box and an ammunition can.

“Officer Burch explained that he was struggling throughout the search with the realization that they should not be engaging in a search of the room without a warrant,” the affidavit states.

The officers brought the seized items downstairs, passing by Fosterling. Kibbe and Burch then returned to the Claremont police station, but Burch took a detour because “he was so troubled by what had just happened,” he told authorities.

Once back at the station, Kibbe told Burch he was going to “take the arrest” and write the affidavit, and that Burch should complete a supplemental report. Burch had to go to Kibbe for guidance on what to write, and Kibbe instructed him on what he should say he found, the affidavit states.

According to Burch, Kibbe was the one who unzipped the suitcase, exposing the baton, but Kibbe told him to write that Burch found it in plain view. Kibbe wrote in his affidavit that the suitcase was open when Burch found it and that when Kibbe shined his flashlight into the backpack, he observed bullets and a magazine.

In Kibbe’s affidavit, he said he didn’t immediately seize what he saw in plain view while all three men were in the bedroom arresting Ratcliffe because “Christopher was becoming more belligerent.”

Kibbe declined an interview with police. Attempts to reach Kibbe on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Burch’s attorney, Richard Guerriero, said by email that neither he nor Burch would comment.

Thursday’s news release makes no mention of charges against Burch. Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward said an investigation into Burch remains active.

Speaking generally, Ward said in most instances, officers need a search warrant to search a private space. There are some exceptions, such as if exigency exists.

“(The allegations are) that (Kibbe) made false statements in that affidavit about what the evidence was and/or where he found it,” Ward said in a telephone interview.

Kibbe is the officer who shot and killed 25-year-old Claremont resident Cody LaFont in 2016. The Attorney General’s Office ruled the shooting “legally justified,” but now has ordered a review of that case in light of the new revelations.

After he was arrested in February, Ratcliffe was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail, partly because he was a felon in possession of dangerous weapons. The judge at the time was basing his order, in part, on the affidavit from Kibbe that authorities now say was falsified.

Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway said on Thursday that some of Ratcliffe’s charges were dismissed, but at least one proceeded because it could be proved independently.

Court records indicate Ratcliffe ultimately pleaded guilty to violating the protection order. The state dismissed five other charges, including four counts of a felon in possession of dangerous weapons.

Chase, the Claremont chief, said he understands that the allegations about Kibbe and Burch will “chip away” at the public’s trust, but assured city residents that the conduct alleged in this case is not widespread or the norm in Claremont.

“I have faith in my officers,” Chase said. “These are isolated, but when they happen, you hear about them, and it hurts the public’s trust and it pains me. These two guys were part of us. They did a lot of good for the community and this takes away all of that.”

He continued: “I know my guys and gals here have to work twice as hard now for people to trust them.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.


Continue reading after the police affidavit.