Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Donate today to give back in celebration of all that #PublicMediaGives. Your contribution will be matched $1 for $1.

AG: Use of deadly force was justified in killing of Derry resident

At a Tuesday press conference, Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley presented evidence of the shooting incident that led to the death of Derry resident Christopher Coppola on April 9, 2022.
Jeongyoon Han
At a Tuesday press conference, Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley presented evidence of the shooting incident that led to the death of Derry resident Christopher Coppola on April 9, 2022.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office said three Derry police officers and a private citizen were all legally justified in shooting a Derry resident who died from one of those shots this spring. No charges will be filed.

Christopher Coppola was shot three times and killed on April 9 after an encounter with Derry police officers who were responding to a 911 call.

Thomas Watson, a Derry resident on Driftwood Road, called to report a man – later identified as Coppola – was walking down the road with a shotgun in hand. Coppola, who also lived on Driftwood Road, had no previous interactions with Watson.

In a press conference Tuesday, Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley said security camera footage from neighboring residences show that before police arrived, Coppola approached Watson’s residence on Driftwood Road and fired at Watson’s direction, who was in his driveway at the time. Watson, who owns a pistol, then proceeded to fire in response.

Read the full Attorney General’s Office report here

Five police officers arrived at the scene, including: Lt. Michael Muncey, and officers Victoria Kidd and Timothy Underhill. Hinckley said upon the police officers’ arrival, Coppola refused to cooperate with police orders and de-escalation attempts; he repeatedly “called out to the police to shoot him and kill him.”

After continued conversation for approximately seven minutes, limited audio and video footage captured from police cars show that Coppola first shot once toward the direction of several officers. Hinckley said in response, Muncey, Kidd and Underhill shot once each at Coppola. Coppola was taken to Parkland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead later that afternoon.

An autopsy conducted by the state’s deputy chief medical examiner showed Coppola was shot in the right forearm, left upper back, and left upper chest. The forearm injury was likely from the pistol like the one Watson used; the back and chest wounds were from a high-velocity rifle like those used by Derry police officers. The chest wound was fatal. Toxicology testing also showed high fentanyl levels in Coppola’s system.

One of the officers who responded to the call had responded to a call the previous day from Coppola about concerns that “suspicious” cars were parked near his home, and that Drug Enforcement Administration agents were spying on him. According to Hinckley, the two officers who responded to the call spoke with Coppola in person, and instructed how Coppola could contact the federal agency.

“It was unusual,” Hinckley said. “There was nothing violent or erratic about his speech. They did find it odd in that he was paranoid, but it wasn’t alarming.”

Days before the shooting, the AG’s office said Coppola had also expressed paranoid thoughts to family members. The day before the shooting, Coppola sent his sister text messages which she found unusual, with concerns that he was in trouble and would be unable to take care of his mother while he would be “in jail.”

“Mr. Coppola had battled drug addiction in the past,” Hinckley said. “And friends of his who were interviewed believed that he may have relapsed in the months before his death.”

In separate messages sent to a friend, who did not open the messages until after Coppola’s death according to the Attorney General’s report, he made post-death arrangements, asking the friend to look after his home and family. He also wrote, “... [oxycontin] ruined my life.”

When asked at Tuesday’s press conference, Hinckley said the investigation did not look into any further context of Coppola’s history of substance use or seeking other forms of treatment.

All five officers were not wearing body cameras.

Jeongyoon joins us from a stint at NPR in Washington, where she was a producer at Weekend Edition. She has also worked as an English teacher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, helped produce podcasts for Hong Kong Stories, and worked as a news assistant at WAMC Northeast Public Radio. She's a graduate of Williams College, where she was editor in chief of the college newspaper.
Related Content

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.