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Mother amends lawsuit in son’s killing by discredited Claremont officer

  • Cody LaFont's mother Tracy McEachern, left, takes a moment after her son's casket is loaded into the hearse between the funeral Mass and his burial in Claremont, N.H., on September 30, 2016. LaFont was shot by Claremont police officer Ian Kibbe earlier in the week. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

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

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2020 10:11:28 PM
Modified: 2/18/2020 10:11:21 PM

CONCORD — The mother of Cody LaFont, the 25-year-old Claremont man who was fatally shot by a police officer in the doorway of his Congress Street home, has filed an amended discrimination lawsuit against the city, painting a more in-depth picture of her son’s struggles with mental illness.

The amended complaint replaces a lawsuit that was filed in September against Claremont and former Claremont police Sgt. Ian Kibbe, accusing the city of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act for discriminating against someone who was clinically depressed.

Kibbe faces a claim of excessive force.

“Few cases could present a clearer degradation of the purpose of the ADA than the death of Cody LaFont,” the amended suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Concord last Thursday, said.

According to the complaint, LaFont was suffering severe depression when he called police for help at his house in September 2016. Authorities have said LaFont was holding a handgun and walking toward Kibbe, who fired three shots after LaFont ignored commands to drop the weapon.

Claremont’s attorney, John Curran, had argued that the original lawsuit did not give evidence to the claim that LaFont suffered from depression, or that it constituted a disability.

In January, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro dismissed the lawsuit against Claremont for failure to state a claim, but gave LaFont’s family 30 days to return with an amended complaint against the city.

The amended complaint, filed by Charles Douglas, an attorney who is representing Tracy McEachern, LaFont’s mother and the executor of his estate, presented a more in-depth history of LaFont’s mental health issues.

The amended complaint said LaFont’s history of depression dates back to elementary school, when he first saw a psychiatrist. Douglas added that LaFont has received “multiple diagnoses of mental illness” and that he was “unable to regulate his emotions, behavior and responses when faced with confrontation or crisis.”

LaFont’s depression constituted a disability because he said it “substantially limited his brain function, communication and thinking,” Douglas wrote.

He added that Claremont police knew about LaFont’s depression because of multiple interactions with him prior to his shooting. Between March 2015 and September 2016, LaFont met with seven police officers, often while he was depressed, the suit said.

The amended complaint pointed to one 2015 incident in particular, during which police officers, including Kibbe, met LaFont at his home.

LaFont told police he was “not right in the head” and “needed help,” according to the complaint.

“(Kibbe) was aware that Cody was depressed and was aware that he had made suicidal comments in the past,” the complaint said.

Douglas wrote that hours after the shooting, at around 7 a.m., Kibbe posted “justice has been served” on a social media account, which the plaintiffs took as a direct reference to LaFont’s shooting.

“A police officer… acted as judge, jury, and executioner to carry out his own version of ‘justice’ for one reason and one reason only: disability,” the new complaint said.

Kibbe’s attorney, Brian Cullen, said he has “no evidence” that the statement about the social media post is true and that he’s never seen the alleged post.

Jared Bedrick, an attorney working with Douglas on the suit, said the firm has no further comment on the new filing.

Curran said he’s currently going through the amended complaint and forming a response, but he doesn’t expect to file a motion to dismiss. Curran has 14 days to respond to the amended complaint.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office initially ruled that Kibbe was “legally justified” in shooting LaFont but amended the finding in October after Kibbe’s credibility was called into question in an unrelated case, saying it could no longer could deem the shooting “legally justified” but also could not disprove Kibbe’s self-defense claim.

In early 2019, Kibbe was sentenced to 90 days in jail for performing an illegal search of a suspect’s room in the unrelated case. He was also instructed to turn over his New Hampshire police credentials for two years, and his attorney at the time said Kibbe had no plans to return to law enforcement in New Hampshire.

Anna Merriman can be reached at 603-727-3216 or amerriman@vnews.com.




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