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State Finds Deadly Force Was Justified In Meredith Police Shooting

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In a report released Tuesday, New Hampshire’s Attorney General ruled a police officer was justified in shooting and killing a man in Meredith last November. It was the fifth police-involved shooting the state has investigated in about a year.

The AG’s office says the episode began with a call to police that 35-year-old David Donovan was “flipping out” and breaking things at the Meredith residence where he was staying.

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Before police arrived, Donovan allegedly stabbed or cut his mother, her boyfriend, who was hospitalized but has since been discharged, and the friend with whom he was staying.

Senior assistant attorney general Geoffrey Ward said at a press conference Tuesday that Meredith police had interacted with Donovan before. His mother sometimes called them for help while her son was allegedly using methamphetamine.

But his behavior on this night was “drastically different from what [the officers involved] had previously experienced,” Ward said. The police told the state they found Donovan angrier, more aggressive and less obedient to commands than normal.

Ward said Donovan was holding three small kitchen knives and refused police instructions to drop them. At one point, Donovan allegedly performed what appeared to be a Nazi salute.

Ward said Donovan advanced toward the officers, prompting Officer Christopher Heney to fire his TASER. Donovan removed the TASER point from his chest and continued forward, allegedly yelling, “Is that all you’ve got?”

Seconds later, with Donovan about 10 feet away, Officer Kevin O’Reilly fired two shots and struck Donovan in the stomach and arm. The entire encounter lasted only about two minutes.

Donovan was taken to a local hospital, where he later died from his injuries. A toxicology report found meth, alcohol and marijuana in his system. His death was ruled a homicide.

The AG’s office will not file charges against O'Reilly after determining that he was reasonable to fear for his life before firing his gun – a standard justification the use of deadly force.

“In just a very short amount of time, Officer O’Reilly had to react and respond to being advanced on by Mr. Donovan at a short distance when he was armed with multiple knives,” Ward said.”

Asked if officers could have de-escalated the situation, Ward said the Taser use constituted an effort to use non-lethal force. The state report on the incident was based in part on footage from a motion-activated Ring doorbell camera.

Ward said of Donovan’s family, “They, of course, wish Mr. Donovan was still here with them.”

“We see an individual who otherwise is well loved in his community, but who, on this night, intoxicated and under the influence of these drugs, took actions and made decisions that left Officer O’Reilly with no choice but to defend himself,” Ward said.

This is the third of five police-involved shootings in the state since last spring to involve meth use. The same was true of an incident in December in Dalton and last October in Thornton.

Deputy AG Jane Young said at Tuesday’s press conference that New Hampshire is stepping up its enforcement of meth trafficking as it responds to incidents like this. She did not elaborate when asked about implications for drug treatment policy and mental health services in the state.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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