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Mother drops civil lawsuit over fatal Claremont police shooting

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

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/22/2020 9:08:42 PM
Modified: 7/23/2020 9:42:11 AM

CLAREMONT — The mother of a 25-year-old man fatally shot by police at his home in 2016 has dropped a lawsuit against the city of Claremont and the former officer who killed her son.

“This case was taking a really serious emotional toll on the family,” Jared Bedrick, an attorney representing Cody LaFont’s mother, said in an interview Wednesday.

He added that the emotional strain, coupled with the likelihood that the case would not go in front of a jury for a long time due to COVID-19, were the main reasons for dropping the lawsuit on July 1. LaFont’s mother, Tracy McEachern, is the administrator of his estate and first filed the lawsuit last September.

Matthew Burrows, who represents Claremont, declined to comment.

In the original complaint, McEachern said her son 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 Claremont police officer Ian Kibbe, who fired three shots after LaFont ignored commands to drop the weapon.

The original complaint included claims that Kibbe and his supervisor, Brent Wilmot, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because they should have known LaFont was suffering from depression, a mental disability.

The family argued that Claremont should have better trained its officers in handling disability cases, and accused Kibbe of excessive force.

Brian Cullen, an attorney representing Kibbe, called the shooting “tragic” in an email Wednesday. But he wrote that his client was put in an “untenable position” because LaFont did not drop the gun.

“Officer Kibbe is glad to have this matter finally closed, even though it will never truly be behind him,” Cullen wrote.

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.

Kibbe had been sentenced to 90 days in jail in early 2019 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.

The LaFont family’s lawsuit ran into problems in the months after it was filed. First, they dropped the ADA claims against Kibbe and Wilmot in December, dismissing Wilmot, who is now the police chief in Newport, from the lawsuit after learning an ADA claim cannot be made against an individual.

Then, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro dismissed the lawsuit for failure to state a claim, but gave LaFont’s family 30 days to return with an amended complaint, which they did.

There was no set date for when the case might have gone to trial, but Bedrick said it would have been a long time, which reinforced the family’s decision to drop the lawsuit.

“There’s really just no prospect of getting in front of a jury for some years,” he said.

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




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