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Police: Man in fatal Claremont standoff fired at bystanders, stockpiled weapons

  • A New Hampshire State Police trooper exits a building where a Claremont-area man was killed in a police shooting on Wednesday night in Claremont, N.H. on Thursday, April, 1, 2021. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

  • 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. Jennifer Hauck

  • As part of a news conference on Aug. 25, 2021, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office showed a photograph of Jeff Ely in the doorway of his Claremont, N.H., shop with a gun clip in a pocket on March 31, 2021. Ely died after a six-hour standoff with New Hampshire State Police. (Courtesy New Hampshire Attorney General)

  • As part of a news conference on Aug. 25, 2021, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office showed a collection of magazines and ammunition from Jeff Ely's shop in Claremont, N.H., on March 31, 2021. Ely died after a six-hour standoff with New Hampshire State Police. (Courtesy New Hampshire Attorney General)

  • As part of a news conference on Aug. 25, 2021, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office showed Claremont, N.H., police officers at the doorway to Jeff Ely's shop on March 31, 2021. Ely died after a six-hour standoff with New Hampshire State Police. (Courtesy New Hampshire Attorney General)

  • As part of a news conference on Aug. 25, 2021, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office released a diagram showing the guns and ammunition in Jeff Ely's shop in Claremont, N.H., on March 31, 2021. Ely died after a six-hour standoff with New Hampshire State Police. (Courtesy New Hampshire Attorney General) Courtesy New Hampshire Attorney General

  • New Hampshire State Police investigate a fatal police shooting in Claremont, N.H., on Thursday, April, 1, 2021. Police responded the night before to a man who had barricaded himself in a building on Sullivan Street. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file photograph — Jennifer Hauck

  • A New Hampshire State Police trooper 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 new file photograph — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/25/2021 3:24:11 PM
Modified: 8/27/2021 3:30:25 PM

CLAREMONT — Suffering apparent delusions and an alleged methamphetamine habit, 40-year-old Jeff Ely fired shots at several pedestrians before he barricaded himself in a warehouse off Sullivan Street in late March, according to a new report released by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

The office released the 144-page report Wednesday, detailing the findings of a monthslong investigation into the March 31 incident, when police shot and killed 40-year-old Ely following a 5½-hour standoff at his shop at 247 Sullivan St.

State officials have determined New Hampshire State Troopers acted lawfully when they fired around 40 shots at Ely, hitting him nine times, because they were “concerned about their safety” and the safety of residents in the surrounding neighborhood, New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Scott Chase said during a news conference on the report Wednesday.

What they found after the standoff only confirmed their fears; Ely had six loaded weapons stashed around his shop in the warehouse, and over 300 rounds of ammunition, according to the report.

During the hourlong news conference Wednesday, Chase outlined the events leading up to Ely’s shooting, which he said started the morning of March 31 near a large storage, warehouse and industrial facility, where Ely had a shop he had been living in, though the facility is not meant for residential use.

The first call came in that morning from Donald Woodman, who worked in another part of the facility and told police he saw Ely driving erratically around the parking lot around 10:30 that morning, according to the report. When Woodman approached Ely, he said, “I’m done with this, I’ll kill them all,” and then threw a bottle at Woodman, prompting him to call police.

Police arrived at the scene and spoke with Ely who talked about hearing voices and said “he wanted to harm whoever was making the voices, but did not want to harm himself or anyone in the area,” according to the report.

Chase clarified Wednesday that Ely believed the voices were coming from inanimate objects and “bypassing his ears, to speak directly to his brain.”

After Ely refused a mental health evaluation, police left with plans to process an “Involuntary Emergency Admission,” for Ely to address his mental health issues.

But before they could, police got another call from residents in the area around 3 p.m. who said Ely was driving recklessly in the parking lot of the facility again and that he had fired a shot at a couple of people standing in the parking lot.

Police spoke with Benjamin Wolfe, who said he had approached Ely that afternoon after seeing him drive erratically and spoke with Ely, who asked, “Do you hear the voices?” the report said. Wolfe left and told his employer, Roger Wright, and the two men went to the parking lot where they saw Ely driving quickly toward them. When he arrived, Ely rolled down his window, pointed a rifle at the two men, and fired, the report said.

The shot went between the two men and hit a nearby truck, prompting the men to call police again.

Police responded to the area around 3 p.m. to find Ely had barricaded himself inside the warehouse. They evacuated the rest of the building and called to Ely, asking him to put down the guns and come out, but the 40-year-old refused, according to the report.

For nearly six hours, police tried to negotiate with Ely, who would not pick up their calls, Chase said. The SWAT team also responded, and police had a mental health expert available on the phone if Ely decided to speak, Chase said.

Around 4:30 p.m., Ely fired four shots from inside the warehouse, recording the gunfire and posting the recording to Facebook. According to the report, the gunshots were random and police could not identify where Ely was aiming.

“It appeared to the officers as though Mr. Ely had ‘lost touch with reality’ and may have believed the Claremont Police Officers were ‘the voices’ he had been hearing,” the report said.

Two hours after he fired the shots, around 6:50 p.m., the SWAT team brought in an armored truck with a battering ram to force open the door to the facility, Chase said. Ely had not been responding to police for 30-45 minutes by that point. When they forced the door open around 7:50 p.m., Ely fired 10 to 15 gunshots, hitting the truck, the report said.

The SWAT team backed up the truck and rammed the door again, but Ely did not fire any shots the second time.

Through his open door, police could see Ely walking around, holding a rifle and ignoring police calls to drop his weapon, Chase said.

When police saw him putting on a coat and moving toward the open door, five troopers fired at Ely, hitting him multiple times.

“As Mr. Ely reacted to the gunshots, he began raising his rifle upward. The troopers continued to fire their weapons and Mr. Ely ultimately fell backward into a seated position,” the report said. The rifle he was holding came to rest at his feet.

The police who fired shots included New Hampshire State Police Sgt. Gary Ingham, Trooper First Class Nicholas Cyr, Trooper First Class Stefan Czyzowski, Trooper First Class Shane Larkin, Trooper William Neilsen, and Trooper Noah Sanctuary.

About 16 seconds after the initial gunfire, Larkin said he saw Ely move, prompting him to fire three more shots, hitting Ely again.

“Larkin said he saw Mr. Ely move and he was concerned he may be making a last stand and would shoot at the troopers,” Chase said. “It was reasonable for Trooper Larkin to conclude that he or others faced an imminent threat of deadly force from Mr. Ely during the second volley of gunfire.”

Using a drone, police looked through the window and determined Ely was dead. An autopsy later revealed he’d been shot nine times to the head, neck, torso and limbs, according to Chase. A toxicology test showed that he had methamphetamine, amphetamine and opioids in his system at the time.

When they searched the room in the facility where Ely was staying, police found six loaded guns and 343 rounds of ammunition stored around different parts of his room, leading troopers to believe he’d intentionally staged the firearms in case he had to “retreat further back into his shop,” Chase said.

Police also found loaded magazines in Ely’s car, which was parked outside.

Following the shooting, police interviewed Ely’s family, friends and colleagues at the facility. What they found painted a picture of Ely suffering a deteriorating mental health crisis and a growing methamphetamine habit, according to the report.

In interviews Woodman told police he gave Ely a job in exchange for Ely being able to have a space at the facility, but that Ely hadn’t been showing up to work recently. Though he called Ely “skilled” Woodman said the 40-year-old had been having “psychotic episodes” over the last six months, and that he’d recently heard Ely “raging” in his shop, the report said.

Kurt Zentmaier, property manager of the facility, told officers that he hadn’t experienced any strange behavior on Ely’s part but that he’d gotten a call the week before the shooting from another tenant who said Ely had been acting “erratic.”

Friends of Ely also told police they’d been concerned about his recent behavior. One friend, who was listed only as “anonymous” in the report, said Ely had started to “lose it” in recent months, which he attributed to Ely’s growing addiction to methamphetamine, the report said.

Another friend, Gary Barnet, said Ely had a “hate for cops” and that he used drugs including Adderall (which contains amphetamine) and methamphetamine, the report said. Barnet told police he believed Ely suffered issues due to his drug use and his mother’s suicide years before, the report said.

The police officers will not be charged in connection with Ely’s death, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

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

Correction

Jeff Ely was shot and killed by New Hampshire State Police on March 31, 2021, at the conclusion of a standoff in Claremont. An earlier version of this story included an incorrect time reference.


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