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AG says shooting by discredited Claremont police officer no longer deemed ‘legally justified’

  • Ian Kibbe, of Springfield, Vt.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/1/2019 2:50:55 PM
Modified: 10/2/2019 10:40:11 AM

CLAREMONT — The state Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday amended its finding in the fatal 2016 police shooting of a Claremont man, saying it could no longer deem the shooting “legally justified” because the police officer involved was found to have lied in a later, unconnected case.

But the Attorney General’s Office also said it could not disprove the self-defense claims of former Cpl. Ian Kibbe, so no criminal charges would be filed in the killing of Cody LaFont. Deputy Attorney General Jane Young said Tuesday night that prosecutors believe this is the first time the office has rescinded a “legally justified” ruling.

The Attorney General’s Office undertook an initial review of the case after Kibbe shot and killed LaFont after he called police to his Congress Street home on Sept. 25, 2016. Kibbe told authorities he fired three times at LaFont after he encountered the 25-year-old man at the front door, holding a handgun, and that LaFont stepped toward him rather than dropping the gun as ordered.

Prosecutors in October 2016 said the shooting was “legally justified,” but re-opened the case in 2018 after Kibbe was charged with falsifying a report, among other things, in another case.

He later pleaded guilty in that matter and served jail time.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Attorney General’s Office concluded its subsequent review of the shooting and issued the update.

The review consisted of re-examining all of the evidence in the 2016 shooting, as well as taking into account Kibbe’s unrelated crimes. The review didn’t turn up any new information or “significant” discrepancies between the evidence gathered in the shooting and Kibbe’s statements, the release states.

The state also had Marilyn Miller, an expert in crime scene reconstruction, review the LaFont shooting, and she concluded “the crime scene investigation was done in an effective manner” and the physical evidence from the scene was “generally” consistent with Kibbe’s statements about how the shooting unfolded, according to the release.

The office’s final conclusion on the LaFont shooting has been formally amended to read:

“Based on a review of the case and considering all the evidence, including Mr. Kibbe’s subsequent criminal conduct and the questions it raised about his credibility as a police officer, the Attorney General’s Office can no longer conclude that Mr. Kibbe’s actions were legally justified,” the release states. “Instead, the office has concluded that it could not disprove Mr. Kibbe’s self-defense claim, beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore no criminal charges will be filed against Mr. Kibbe as a result of Mr. LaFont’s death.”

LaFont’s mother, Tracy McEachern, who is the administrator of her son’s estate, filed a lawsuit last week against Kibbe, as well as a police supervisor and the city of Claremont, asserting Kibbe “unnecessarily” killed her son, and that he was the victim of discrimination because of a mental disability.

Reached on Tuesday, McEachern said the Attorney General’s Office’s update is welcomed news.

“It is a little vindication for my son,” said McEachern, who lives in Florida. “A lot of people never felt the story was what the story was.”

Ken LaFont, Cody’s father, had no comment on Tuesday.

Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase said he had no comment on the Attorney General’s Office’s update.

Claremont police haven’t changed any policies regarding how officers respond to calls where someone may be experiencing a mental health crisis, Chase said.

McEachern alleges in the lawsuit that the city failed to properly train its officers on how to respond to someone suffering from a mental disability, specifically depression, in her son’s case.

She claims Kibbe and then-Sgt. Brent Wilmot, who is named in the suit, should have known that LaFont was suffering from depression and tailored their response.

 Jordan Cuddemi can be reache d at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

Update

This story has been updated to reflect that this is the first time prosecutors believe a  “legally justified” ruling has been rescinded by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.




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