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LaFont estate files lawsuit in fatal Claremont police shooting

  • Cody LaFont in an undated family photograph. (Family photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2019 1:43:55 PM
Modified: 9/26/2019 10:00:47 PM

CLAREMONT — Cody LaFont’s estate has sued the now-former officer who shot and killed him three years ago, as well as the city of Claremont and a police supervisor, claiming the officer used excessive force and that LaFont was the victim of discrimination because of a mental disability.

Tracy McEachern, LaFont’s mother and the administrator of his estate, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, alleging former officer Ian Kibbe, who has since served jail time for lying in a separate case, “unnecessarily” killed LaFont on Sept. 25, 2016, by use of deadly force, according to the 12-page suit.

McEachern also alleges that Kibbe and then-Sgt. Brent Wilmot should have known that LaFont was suffering from a mental disability, specifically depression, and tailored their response. Kibbe responded to LaFont’s Congress Street home that morning after LaFont called 911 multiple times, told a dispatcher he was suffering from depression and requested an officer respond to his home, something he had done before, the suit states.

As Kibbe’s and Wilmot’s employer, McEachern claims the city of Claremont failed to properly train its officers on how to interact with a person suffering from a mental health crisis, which ultimately led to LaFont’s death, the lawsuit states.

The estate seeks a jury trial and an unspecified award for damages.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office in October 2016 said Kibbe was “legally justified” when he shot LaFont, 25, in the entryway of LaFont’s home.

That ruling said Kibbe faced an “imminent threat of deadly force” from LaFont when LaFont opened the front door, advanced toward Kibbe with a revolver drawn and ignored commands to drop the weapon.

However, the lawsuit alleges that LaFont didn’t pose a threat.

“LaFont, at the time Kibbe unlawfully discharged his firearm, was not attempting to avoid a lawful seizure, nor did he pose any threat to an officer’s safety or the safety of the public,” McEachern’s attorneys, Chuck Douglas and Jared Bedrick, wrote in the suit.

The Attorney General’s Office has since reopened the investigation into LaFont’s death, a development that unfolded parallel to allegations that Kibbe had committed wrongdoing in an unrelated case. Deputy Attorney General Jane Young said Thursday the investigation is in its final stages.

Kibbe pleaded guilty in December 2018 to two misdemeanors for performing an illegal search of a Claremont man’s bedroom in February 2018 and falsifying his report about how that search occurred. A judge sentenced Kibbe in January to 90 days in jail for the search of Christopher Ratcliffe’s bedroom, which led to Ratcliffe being wrongfully detained.

Had a New Hampshire state trooper not spoken up about his suspicion that Kibbe and former Officer Mark Burch acted improperly, the case may never have come to light, the prosecutor said at the sentencing. Burch, a then-junior officer, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor but avoided jail time.

The LaFont lawsuit alleges that Kibbe and Ratcliffe had a history and that a post Ratcliffe made on social media shortly after LaFont’s death illuminates Kibbe’s mindset on the day he shot LaFont.

Kibbe allegedly stopped Ratcliffe in a gas station parking lot 3½ hours before the shooting, according to the suit. The nature of the stop isn’t made clear, but after hearing about the shooting, Ratcliffe allegedly posted that Kibbe had to be the officer who shot LaFont because “there was only (one) sociopath on duty” that night, according to the lawsuit.

Ratcliffe accused Kibbe of acting “unnaturally aggressive” during the traffic stop, the lawsuit states.

Both the Attorney General’s Office’s report clearing Kibbe and the lawsuit state that Kibbe responded to LaFont’s home that morning to get him to stop calling 911, which LaFont did multiple times.

While en route to LaFont’s home, Kibbe “was informed that Mr. LaFont likely was intoxicated and depressed,” the attorney general’s report states. Kibbe and Wilmot failed to take the latter into account and accommodate for it, thus discriminating against LaFont and violating his rights, McEachern’s lawsuit alleges.

Kibbe arrived at LaFont’s home at 4:49 a.m. Sept. 25, 2016. Kibbe shot LaFont one minute later, according to the attorney general’s report.

There were no witnesses. Claremont police didn’t wear body cameras or have cruiser cameras at that time; officers now wear body cameras.

Wilmot has since been promoted to deputy chief, Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase said Thursday.

Chase declined to comment on the lawsuit, copying Wilmot and City Manager Ed Morris on the email. An attorney hasn’t yet been assigned to the case. Attempts to reach Kibbe were unsuccessful.

McEachern, who now lives in Florida, also declined to comment. The suit was filed one day before the statute of limitations ran out.

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




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