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AG Clears 6 SWAT Team Members of Criminal Charges After Killing Man Following Claremont Standoff

Ely's vehicle parked outside of his residence where he barricaded himself following a shooting.
N.H. Attorney General's Office.
Ely's vehicle parked outside of his residence where he barricaded himself following a shooting.

The New Hampshire attorney general's office says the fatal shooting of a Claremont man by members of a SWAT team last March following a standoff was legally justified.

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Attorney General John Formella announced Wednesday that no criminal charges will be filed against the six law enforcement officers who fired their weapons killing 40-year old Jeffrey Ely.

Ely was armed with an AR-style rifle and was engaged in a five-hour standoff with members of the SWAT team, during which time he fired his weapon multiple times, according to a 144-page report detailing the incident. Ely described having delusions to members of law enforcement and had methamphetamines in his system at the time of his killing.

“The facts of the investigation, coupled with the applicable law, have led me to conclude that each trooper's use of deadly force” was legally justified, Formella told reporters during a press conference.

Around 10:30 am on March 31, 2020, police responded to a mental health check for Ely, according to the attorney general’s office. An acquaintance of Ely told authorities Ely had been suffering from “psychological issues” in recent months. According to the attorney general’s report, Claremont police spent about 90 minutes with Ely, during which time he declined a consultation with a mental health provider.

“While it was apparent to the officers that Mr. Ely was having mental health complications, Mr. Ely did not believe he had any mental health problems or that he was imagining the voices,” the attorney general wrote in the report. “Mr. Ely said that he wanted to harm whoever was making the voices, but did not want to harm himself or anyone in the area.”

Later in the day, police received a report that Ely had fired a weapon at three people, though there were no injuries. Video footage released on Wednesday showed Ely driving a maroon vehicle in a parking lot and then appearing to aim a weapon at three men gathered in the lot.

When police responded, Ely barricaded himself in his residence, which was inside a sprawling industrial building. As law enforcement approached his door, body cam footage captured Ely yelling and firing a gun inside of the building multiple times. Nobody was injured in the second shooting.

“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 attorney general wrote in the report.

Ely uploaded audio of him firing a gunshot to his Facebook page.

After further attempts to communicate with Ely, a SWAT team drove an armored vehicle known as the BEAR to his residence. Ely fired at least 10 shots at the BEAR as it approached.

After ignoring commands to drop his weapon, all six members of the SWAT team fired at Ely, discharging at least 37 shots. There was no body camera footage of the incident, though a nearby security camera captured audio of the shooting.

An autopsy found methamphetamines in Ely’s body at the time of his death.

Troopers Nicholas Cyr, Stefan Czyzowski, Gary Ingham, Shane Larkin, William Neilsen and Noah Sanctuary all fired their weapons in unison, according to the report.

“The troopers believed that Mr. Ely was going to exit [his residence] still armed with that rifle, and showing no intent of peacefully surrendering,” assistant attorney general Scott Chase told reporters. “They believed he was going to start engaging with them, shooting at the troopers, or to flee with that loaded weapon.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.
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