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Man killed in Claremont police shooting showed signs of distress, friend says

  • Jeff Ely swims with Lisa Ockington-Nugent’s granddaughter Skyler in an undated photograph. (Courtesy Lisa Ockington-Nugent)

  • Public defender Liz Kruska, left, and Capt. Thomas Herb of the Windsor County Sherriff's Department motion for Jeffrey Ely of Windsor to leave the court room after being arraigned for reckless endangerment and three charges of simple assault in Windsor District Court Monday, November 10, 2008. Ely allegedly shot three people and himself while a gun in his possession was being wrestled away from him during an altercation at a hunting camp in Hartland early Sunday morning. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jeff Ely, left, of Windsor, Vt., and Gary Barnett, of Hartland, Vt., workers at Justin Excavation and Demolition, work on disassembling a 200-foot radio tower in White River Junction, Vt., on Feb. 14, 2012. (Valley News - Theophil Syslo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A New Hampshire State Police trooper closes Sullivan Street in Claremont, N.H. on Thursday, April 1, 2021, as authorities investigated a fatal police shooting in a warehouse along the road on Wednesday night. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • New Hampshire State Police troopers investigates a fatal police shooting in Claremont, N.H. on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Authorities say shots were fired between the State Police SWAT team and a man who had barricaded himself in a Sullivan Street building. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/7/2021 9:34:41 PM
Modified: 4/8/2021 8:22:58 AM

CLAREMONT — Days before Jeff Ely was shot dead by police during an exchange of gunfire in Claremont last week, the 40-year-old Windsor-area native made a frantic call to his ex-girlfriend.

“He said he needed to make sure I was OK,” Lisa Ockington-Nugent, Ely’s former girlfriend and friend of 12 years, said in an interview this week. When she told Ely she was fine, he didn’t believe her and asked her to prove her identity over the phone. That was when something clicked, she said.

“I knew I needed to check on him because he didn’t sound right,” she said.

Early last week Ockington-Nugent drove over to where Ely had been living, at a group of industrial and warehouse buildings off of Sullivan Street in Claremont. It was the first time in a year she’d seen Ely. He had a scruffy beard and long hair, she said, and “didn’t look like Jeff.”

“I knew when I looked at him something was wrong,” she said. Ockington-Nugent spent a couple of days with Ely, helping him clean up, talking about his future and taking rides together in his truck. It was a time Ockington-Nugent said she was glad to have with the man she still loved.

But on March 31, everything changed. Ely woke up in a panic and told Ockington-Nugent to leave. Hours later, police responded to a report of shots fired at the complex off 247 Sullivan St. The call turned into a standoff when Ely refused to leave the building, and police called for backup from the New Hampshire State Police SWAT team. After they arrived, six members of the SWAT team exchanged gunfire with Ely.

An autopsy later showed Ely was shot in the head, neck, torso, and upper and lower extremities.

A Facebook post he had made hours earlier indicated he had also been concerned about his beloved dog, Jaycee — or as Ely called her, “J.”

“Someone needs to come get my dog. I’m done with life,” Ely wrote. “Just come to the shop and pick her up.”

The dog was not with him at the time of the shooting and is being taken care of by family members, according to Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase.

For Ockington-Nugent, the change in Ely just before his death was confusing. Ely had started making posts on Facebook earlier in March, asking for help and claiming someone was harassing him using voices of people he knows. Ockington-Nugent and others who knew Ely or saw the Facebook posts said they were worried about his mental health.

“I had never known him to be like that,” Ockington-Nugent said.

However, she said, Ely’s life had long been marked by tragedy that he rarely discussed: “He just wasn’t an open man, but you could tell when he was hurt.”

Ely grew up in Windsor and went to Windsor High School as part of the Class of 1998.

“He wasn’t a bad kid growing up,” said former Windsor High School Athletic Director Bob Hingston. “Everyone knew he had struggles later.”

The biggest struggle came when Ely was 18 and his mother, with whom he was very close, died by suicide, according to Ockington-Nugent.

“He dealt with it for so long,” she said of the depression Ely felt following his mother’s death.

The next decade would be troubled for Ely; in 1999 he pleaded no contest to stolen property and unlawful mischief charges, and to DWI charges the following year. In 2008 he was charged with aggravated assault after he fired off a gun during a fight at a party, injuring three people. He pleaded guilty to the charges in 2010 and received up to a year of prison time, according to court records.

He and Ockington-Nugent connected after he was released from prison; she said Ely was determined to improve his life. Over the next few years, Ely built up his credit, bought a new truck, and worked several jobs, often as a welder.

“He could quit a job yesterday and have a job tomorrow,” she said. “He was always working.”

Ely also helped Ockington-Nugent care for her grandchildren, taking the family on hiking trips or day trips out on the lake. She distinctly remembers lying in the sun on the banks of a nearby lake while Ely and her granddaughter Skyler jumped off a boat and played and swam in the water. On the weekends, he would take his truck and join friends to go “mudding,” driving on back roads and covering his truck in mud for fun.

“He was a wonderful person,” Ockington-Nugent said. “If he cared about you, he cared about you wholeheartedly.”

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is investigating the shooting and has not yet released the names of the troopers who shot Ely.

Ely is survived by his father Eugene Ely and his brother Tim Ely, as well as his aunts and uncles and cousins. Tim Ely declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday.

A visitation for Ely will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Knight Funeral Home in Windsor.

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




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