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Kenyon: Don’t Let White Supremacist’s Claremont Killing Become a ‘Misdemeanor Murder”

  • Jesse Jarvis in a 2017 photograph. (Claremont Police photograph)


Sunday, September 30, 2018

I recently came across some cop lingo that was new to me. On the public radio program This American Life, a retired Long Island, N.Y., police detective referred to a “misdemeanor murder.”

Rob Trotta, who was part of an FBI violent crime task force before retiring in 2014, was being interviewed about MS-13 gang-related killings a few years back. It was a case that involved a victim who on the surface wasn’t a sympathetic character and therefore wasn’t given much investigative priority.

“No one should be asking for murder, but clearly he put himself in a position to be killed,” Trotta told the reporter.

I’m starting to think we might have an unsolved “misdemeanor murder” of our own in the Upper Valley.

Jesse Jarvis, 36, was gunned down shortly after midnight on May 13 in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant and lounge in Claremont. More than four months later, no arrests have been made. Since the days following the shooting, authorities have had little to say about the case, except that Jarvis suffered multiple gunshot wounds outside the Imperial Buffet and Lounge on Washington Street. He died at the scene.

It’s been reported over the years that Jarvis was known to law enforcement as a founder of the Brotherhood of White Warriors, a New Hampshire-based white supremacist prison gang. Jarvis had been in and out of state prison for the last couple of decades, records show.

I first heard about Jarvis in summer 2008 when he was wanted for allegedly stealing a Nazi flag and resisting arrest in Claremont. To bring him into custody, a 16-member New Hampshire regional SWAT team surrounded the Charlestown home of his father, Tony Jarvis, where he was believed to be hiding out. The team’s ill-conceived plan triggered an exchange of gunfire that left Tony Jarvis dead and a state trooper with a bullet wound in his leg.

In theory, the 14th Amendment promises equal justice for all. In practice, however, police probably aren’t going to log a lot of overtime to track down the killer (or killers) of someone with Jesse Jarvis’ background.

“It’s just human nature,” Trotta told me over the phone, explaining why some murder cases get treated as minor wrongdoings. “There’s always the thrill of the hunt, but say a drug dealer kills another bad guy. It’s just different.”

Trotta, 57, doesn’t mean to sound too critical of cops. He was in law enforcement himself for 24 years.

“It’s not like (police) aren’t going to do the work, but having said that, it all comes from the top,” he said.

In Jarvis’ case that would be the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, which is overseeing the state police investigation. On Thursday, Senior Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati, who is in the office’s drug unit, told me via email that he didn’t have any “developments to report on at this time.”

“The investigation has slowed somewhat from where it was immediately after the shooting took place as some witnesses have been unwilling to talk; however, investigators have been working on the matter throughout the past four months,” he said.

Last week, I called Jarvis’ family. “We have not heard anything,” said his sister-in-law, Angel Jarvis.

She was hesitant to say much else, fearing that more publicity would create another firestorm of social media attacks on Jarvis and his family.

Understandable. During our conversation, I brought up the Roy Funeral Home website that had included a comments section with Jarvis’ online obituary. Nearly 50 people had written in with condolences. The Off Pleasant St. Barbershop in Claremont had been among those to light a candle in Jarvis’ memory.

That’s where he got his haircuts, she said.

On Thursday, I stopped by the small shop and chatted for a while with Angela Treem, who owns the shop with her mother, and Lizz Monk, an employee, about their memories of Jarvis. “He was always extremely polite,” Treem said. “We never had an issue with him.”

Treem grew up in Claremont, but being slightly older, she didn’t know Jarvis in school. “I think everybody had heard things about him being in and out of jail,” she said.

He often came with his pit bull, Ariel, (a “sweetheart”) and was a good tipper, too. Sometimes Treem was alone in the shop when Jarvis came in. “I never felt threatened,” she said. “He never talked about white supremacist things.

“Regardless of what he might have done in his life, it’s not our business. We’re here to give haircuts.”

Monk said she’s sorry for what the family has been through. She stopped reading social media after a picture popped up of Jarvis with a bull’s-eye imprinted on his face. “He died on Mother’s Day,” Monk recalled. “No mom would want that phone call.”

Immediately after the shooting, Agati, the senior assistant attorney general, said there was no “evidence that anyone went there and targeted (Jarvis) specifically.”

I passed along what I knew about the case to Trotta, who’s now a legislator for Suffolk County, N.Y.

Considering Jarvis’ white supremacist ties, this would seem to be a case that “you’d actually want to solve,” he said, if for no other reason than to learn more about the inner workings of New Hampshire gangs.

Was this a gang hit? Was it another kind of dispute? Or was Jarvis simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Whatever it was, it wasn’t a misdemeanor.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.