Arrests Tossed as More Are Reviewed

  • Ian Kibbe, 30, of Springfield, Vt.

Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, April 29, 2018

Claremont — The Claremont Police Department has thrown out at least 20 arrest cases that involved former officers Ian Kibbe and Mark Burch amid allegations that they performed an illegal search and falsified official reports, authorities said last week.

The number of cases is expected to climb as Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase and his staff take a closer look at the arrests Kibbe and Burch made over their tenure at the department, Chase said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway said his office also is reviewing felony-level cases that involved the officers, though he couldn’t put a number on how many cases he will have to review.

The 30-year-old Kibbe, who had been a 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 legality of the search and Burch told investigators that reports were falsified, according to court documents.

Asked whether there will be any “Laurie List” implications to this, Hathaway said: “Absolutely.”

The Laurie List constitutes a list of police officers in New Hampshire who are considered to have credibility issues. Today, the list is a component of the state’s “Exculpatory Evidence Protocol and Schedule,” which is used to establish a prosecutor’s obligation to inform defendants of any evidence that could be favorable to the accused, according to a New Hampshire Department of Justice memorandum.

One of those pieces of evidence includes notifying defendants of whether any officers who might testify against them have credibility issues.

Neither Kibbe nor Burch, who has not been charged but remains under investigation, were on the Laurie List prior to this incident, Chase said.

They could be now though, Chase and Hathaway said.

“This is a matter that would be disclosable to individuals whose cases are ongoing,” Hathaway said.

Both officials acknowledged that reviewing Kibbe’s and Burch’s arrest cases will be burdensome but necessary. Kibbe worked for Claremont police for about three years; Burch did so for less than a year.

“It is both the right thing and the thing we are required to do, and we don’t shirk from doing that,” Hathaway said.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office also is reviewing at least one case involving Kibbe.

Kibbe in 2016 shot and killed 25-year-old Claremont resident Cody LaFont, a shooting that the Attorney General’s Office had investigated and ruled legally justified.

Now, prosecutors have ordered a review of the case in light of Kibbe’s charges on Thursday of conspiracy to commit perjury and attempted perjury, as well as two counts each of unsworn falsification and obstructing government administration.

LaFont’s mother, Tracy McEachern, and father, Kenneth LaFont, said in interviews on Friday that they hope the review turns up new information about what happened on the night of Sept. 25, 2016, when Kibbe responded to LaFont’s house after LaFont placed a 911 call.

LaFont, who said he was suffering from depression and had been drinking, wanted to speak to a Claremont officer face-to-face at his home, something city officers had done on several previous occasions, according to the Attorney General’s report.

Kibbe arrived at LaFont’s home at 4:49 a.m. LaFont died one minute later. Kibbe told authorities he was forced to shoot LaFont after LaFont advanced toward him near the entryway of the home with a revolver drawn, the report states.

Both McEachern and LaFont said their son didn’t have weapons in his home, and that they have questions about whether their son really had a gun in his possession that night.

They said they realize they may never learn what truly happened because there were no witnesses.

“I think that Kibbe’s account of what happened that first hour needs to be addressed,” McEachern said.

“Given light of him (allegedly) falsifying his reports and the fact that there were no witnesses to the shooting, makes me wonder.”

“I am hoping they will re-question him about that night and see if his answers add up to what he said before,” Kenneth LaFont said.

The recent charges against Kibbe are merely accusations; he has not yet been arraigned. Those charges include counts of conspiracy to commit perjury and attempted perjury, plus two counts each of unsworn falsification and obstructing government administration following the arrest of Christopher Ratcliffe.

The charges followed a March investigation by the Attorney General’s Office that started after a state police trooper who assisted Kibbe and Burch with a Feb. 24 arrest came forward about alleged wrongdoing by the Claremont officers.

Under a proffer agreement, Burch told authorities that he and Kibbe falsified their reports in the arrest of Ratcliffe, who the officers went to arrest at his residence for violating a protective order, according to a court affidavit written by Todd Flanagan, the deputy chief investigator in the Attorney General’s Office.

Burch also said that Kibbe performed an unlawful search by opening a backpack and a suitcase inside Ratcliffe’s room, uncovering weapons.

Ratcliffe, a convicted felon, can’t be in possession of weapons.

Kibbe and Burch then went back to the station and talked, in part, about how they would write their reports to reflect a lawful search, the affidavit states.

Kibbe wrote the official affidavit and Burch wrote a supplemental report.

Burch told investigators he was uneasy about what was happening in Ratcliffe’s bedroom that night, but went along with it, the affidavit states.

The affidavit Kibbe submitted to the court for Ratcliffe’s case resulted in Ratcliffe being held on $10,000 cash bail.

Chase on Friday said Kibbe and Burch were both assigned to the patrol division within the department, so they mostly dealt with lower level crimes and motor vehicle infractions.

They also both worked the night shift. Kibbe was Burch’s superior on the shift.

Neither are still employed by the department.

Not all of the cases that Kibbe and Burch were involved in will be thrown out, Chase said.

For example, if Kibbe and Burch just aided another officer, the case could still proceed, as could cases where evidence against a defendant can be produced in another manner.

The cases that have been dismissed were active cases that were either set for arraignment or trial.

“We will review any and all cases that those officers were involved with,” Chase said. “I don’t know how many that is.”

Like many police departments, Chase doesn’t have a full roster. He is now down three full-time positions in Claremont, which has a population of about 13,000.

“It is labor intensive, no doubt, and it is not time that is easily divided,” Chase said. “But we need to do it.”

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