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Haverhill Police Reply To Lawsuit

  • Hagen Esty-Lennon



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

North Haverhill — The Haverhill Police Department and three of its officers have denied allegations outlined in a lawsuit filed against them by the mother of a 41-year-old man who was shot and killed by police in July 2015.

The police department; officers Ryan Jarvis and Gregory Collins, who shot and killed Hagen Esty-Lennon in Bath, N.H., after he charged at them with a knife; and Detective Sgt. Wallace Trott, who arrived on scene after the incident, maintained the shooting was justified and say qualified immunity on both the federal and state level exist in this case, according to responses filed in U.S. District Court in Concord late last month.

The shooting was captured on police video, including body cameras, and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office ruled that it was “legally justified.”

Donna Esty, both individually and on behalf of her son’s estate, sued the four parties in mid-February, alleging Jarvis and Collins violated Esty-Lennon’s constitutional rights, and the department and Trott failed to properly instruct and supervise the officers. Esty also accused the department of having unconstitutional policies and practices that led to the shooting, which she classified as “unjustified,” according to her lawsuit.

“(The) defendants deny the factual allegations and put plaintiffs to their proof,” according to the response filed on behalf of the police department and Jarvis. “(The) police officers were justified in their actions. The policies and practices of the town of Haverhill/Haverhill Police Department are constitutional.”

Collins, who is no longer with the Haverhill police department, and Trott filed responses separately.

Esty, through her lawyer Peter McGrath, sued all of the parties on nine counts, including wrongful death and violation of civil rights. An award amount wasn’t specified in her initial suit, but according to the discovery plan filed last week, Esty demands $500,000.

In an email on Monday, McGrath said that amount is merely a placeholder.

“He had a full-time job and was a young guy and a father, what would you value his life at?” McGrath said.

The incident unfolded on the afternoon of July 6, 2015, when Esty-Lennon, an Army veteran, crashed his SUV on an old iron bridge and had what appeared to be a “self-inflicted” knife wound to his chest, according to the attorney general’s report.

Jarvis and Collins were dispatched to the crash and encountered Esty-Lennon walking west on Route 302 with a knife. The officers ordered Esty-Lennon to drop the weapon, but he didn’t comply, according to the report.

He instead turned away from the officers and began running east before pivoting and charging at the officers, who had pursued him. The officers then shot Esty-Lennon multiple times. He was pronouned dead at Cottage Hospital in Woodsville.

All of the parties to the suit cite several affirmative defenses in their responses.

All cited qualified immunity, a doctrine that protects police from civil liability.

“It is fair to say Collins and Trott and my clients will all be moving for summary judgment at some point in the future,” said Charles Bauer, the attorney for the police department and Jarvis.

Messages left for Collins’ attorney, Brian Cullen, and Trott’s attorney, John Curran, were not returned.

The case is slated for a four- to five-day trial in March 2018.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com.