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City dismissed from lawsuit filed in fatal police shooting in Claremont

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/27/2020 9:55:50 PM
Modified: 1/27/2020 9:55:33 PM

CLAREMONT — A federal judge has dismissed Claremont from a discrimination lawsuit related to the fatal police shooting of a 25-year-old city resident in 2016.

Tracy McEachern, the mother of Cody LaFont and the administrator of his estate, filed suit in September, saying the police officer who killed her son used excessive force and that LaFont was the victim of discrimination because of a mental disability.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled Jan. 14 that her lawsuit had failed to state an adequate claim against the city, giving the plaintiff 30 days to return with an amended complaint. The lawsuit still stands against former patrol officer Ian Kibbe, the officer who killed LaFont.

Jared Bedrick, an attorney for the family, said he plans to amend the lawsuit and make that deadline.

“We see (the order) as a minor procedural decision that we fully anticipated,” Bedrick said. “We need to identify facts that make (the lawsuit) clearer.”

The judge’s decision follows months of legal back and forth between LaFont’s family and Claremont over whether the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lafont was shot by Kibbe at his house in 2016, after he called police for help because he was depressed, according to the complaint. Authorities have said LaFont was brandishing a handgun when Kibbe arrived. The lawsuit accused Claremont of violating the ADA for failing to train officers in how to recognize and adequately respond to calls involving people with mental illnesses.

In November, Claremont’s lawyer John Curran filed a motion to dismiss the city from the lawsuit, arguing that the family hasn’t shown that Lafont had a disability or that he was mistreated because of it. While there are reports of LaFont’s depression and issues with alcohol, “there is scant content that identifies what mental health disability rendered (LaFont) unable to engage in basic activities,” the motion said.

Curran also argued that the lawsuit claims the city failed to train its officers for disability cases but doesn’t elaborate on what it should have done differently.

Bedrick, in a responding motion, argued that the ADA doesn’t require someone to be diagnosed with a specific condition in order to be considered disabled. Police should have known that LaFont was suffering with a disability from his calls, where he said he was “having trouble dealing with his depression,” his objection said.

Attorneys also wrote that police discriminated against LaFont by sending an officer out to his house — not to help him with his depression as LaFont had asked — but to tell him to stop calling 911. Police should have interacted with Lafont “in an appropriate manner given the severe and obvious nature of his mental health disability,” Bedrick asserted.

The decision marks the second dismissal in the case recently. Another defendant, Brent Wilmot, who is now the deputy chief of police in Claremont, was dropped from the case in December.

Kibbe is still named in the lawsuit and faces one count of excessive force. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office initially ruled that Kibbe was “legally justified” in shooting LaFont but rescinded that decision after learning that Kibbe falsified a police report in a later, unrelated criminal case. In October, the Attorney General’s office amended the finding, saying it could no longer could deem the shooting “legally justified” but also could not disprove Kibbe’s self-defense claim.

Curran was not available for comment on Monday.

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




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