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AG: Police Shooting in Canaan a Justified Use of Deadly Force

Britta Greene / NHPR
Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announcing justified deadly force in the Canaan shooting Dec. 23, 2017.

There will be no charges against a New Hampshire state trooper who shot and killed a 26-year-old man in Canaan in December.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced Wednesday that Trooper Christopher O’Toole’s use of deadly force was legally justified. (The AG's full report is embedded at the end of this story.)

That’s because, according to O’Toole, Jesse J. Champney repeatedly said he had a gun and threatened to shoot. O’Toole was pursuing Champney on foot across a dark, snowy field after a car chase on Dec. 23.

Investigators relied on recordings of O'Toole's communications with dispatchers, in which he reported Champney saying he was armed. That confirmed the interviews he and another officer, Samuel Provenza with the Canaan police, gave after the incident. New Hampshire state troopers are not equipped with body cameras.

"The critical question is whether, at the time he fired his gun, Trooper O'Toole reasonably believed that Mr. Champney had a gun and was going to shoot him," said Jeffery A. Strelzin, chief of the homicide unit at the Attorney General's office. "In light of all those facts and circumstances known to Trooper O'Toole at the time, and given Mr. Champney's explicit threats and threatening conduct, Trooper O'Toole's belief was objectively reasonable."

Champney did not, in fact, have a gun on him. An autopsy found high levels of methamphetamine, among other drugs, in his system. The officers were pursuing him because he was suspected of stealing a car.

The AG's office posted investigative documents on their website, including audio and video, here.

Read the full Attorney General's report here below: 

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