N.H. officer's gun discharges, hits other officer

CONCORD, N.H. — A Concord police officer was shot in the chest by another officer yesterday morning while on duty but suffered only minor injuries because he was wearing a bulletproof vest, according to the state attorney general’s office.

The shooting happened at 4:30 a.m. inside the Granite State Credit Union building on Sheep Davis Road. Four Concord police officers were inside the bank, which is under construction, when one officer’s handgun discharged and hit another officer in the chest, said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin.

Neither Strelzin nor Police Chief Robert Barry identified the officers yesterday because the shooting remains under investigation. They also declined to say why the four officers were inside the bank yesterday morning or how the officer’s gun discharged. That information will be released once the investigation is complete, Strelzin said.

William Roberts, vice president of risk and security for the credit union, visited the shooting scene yesterday and said he also had not been told why the officers came into the building.

Roberts said the department had not asked to use the building for a training exercise. For security reasons, Roberts declined to say whether the bank, which is not yet open for business, had an alarm system that could have called the officers.

“Something brought them inside,” Roberts said. “I was surprised to get the call (about the shooting) myself this morning.”

The officers did not call an ambulance after the shooting, said Acting Fire Chief Tim McGinley. It appears the officers themselves drove the injured officer to Concord Hospital. He was treated for minor injuries and released, Strelzin said.

The shooting remains under investigation by the state police Major Crime Unit and the state attorney general’s office. Strelzin said both agencies have the full cooperation of the Concord police. Strelzin said the investigation will determine whether the shooting was justified or whether charges are warranted.

Strelzin declined to say what sort of charges are possible.

Barry and Deputy Police Chief John Duval said they could not comment on the shooting yesterday and referred calls to Strelzin. Detective Mark Dumas, president of the patrolman’s union, also referred calls to the attorney general’s office.

Safety vests vary in strength, but most can stop a .45-caliber round, law enforcement officials said yesterday. But not all police agencies require their officers to wear bulletproof vests while on duty. For example, Franconia police Cpl. Bruce McKay opted not to wear his the day he was shot and killed by Liko Kenney.

In Concord, however, the vest is a required part of the uniform. And that made the difference yesterday. “The vest here clearly saved this officer’s life,” Strelzin said.

Strelzin declined yesterday to characterize the atmosphere inside the Concord police station following the shooting. “Generally speaking, in doing these cases I find that it’s clear the officers involved feel very affected when they are involved in a shooting situation,” he said. “It’s a very traumatic situation.”

This is the department’s fifth officer-involved shooting since 1980.

The most recent came in 2006. In September of that year, Sgt. Cori Casey shot and killed 54-year-old Clyde Gauntt in East Concord when Gauntt lunged at him with a knife after refusing Casey’s orders to drop his weapon. The authorities ruled that Casey was justified in shooting Gauntt.

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