Gunfire in the breakdown lane of Interstate 89 near Exit 6
HOPKINTON, NH - A Quechee, Vermont man who'd allegedly just broken into his mother's house and stolen her car taunted police officers Friday evening in the breakdown lane of Interstate 89 southbound and then whipped his hand out of his jacket in a "gun-like" pantomime move that prompted three officers to pull their triggers and try to return fire, according to a preliminary report from New Hampshire's attorney general that was released late Thursday.
Bryan Evans, 31, of Quechee, who has no prior criminal record, sustained a single serious gunshot wound to his leg after he was pulled over just before 7 p.m. Friday behind the wheel of the car that his mother had called 911 to report stolen a short time beforehand.
In a sworn statement to police filed with the court in White River Junction, Evan's mother described her son as having struggled for some time with heroin addiction before entering a downward spiral that alarmed her to the point she drove him earlier on Friday afternoon to the Lebanon Police Station and dropped him off there with the admonition that he seek help and not return to her house in Quechee.
Less than an hour later, she told Hartford Police, Evan's showed back up at her residence and allegedly smashed his way in through a glass door, took her keys and stole her car, heading off to Boston in what she said she believed was an effort to buy heroin.
The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office said Thursday that the officers-involved shooting that has left Evans hospitalized this week at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon was a justified use of force that came in the midst of a tense and rapidly escalating standoff on Interstate 89 not far from Concord, New Hampshire.
In Vermont, arrest warrants have been issued this week charging Evans with felony counts of burglary and grand larceny for allegedly stealing his mother’s car as well as misdemeanor counts of vandalism, petty larceny, and operating a car without the consent of the owner.
In New Hampshire, Evans was arraigned in his hospital bed Thursday on a felony count of receiving stolen property and misdemeanor counts of unauthorized use of a vehicle, disobeying an officer, and three counts of criminal threatening.
In the preliminary report that was made public late Thursday the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office gave the most detailed account to date of the confrontation that unfolded between Evans and several police officers just before 7 p.m. on Friday.
The first law enforcement officer to spot the stolen car was New Hampshire State Police Trooper Michael Arteaga who saw Evans, alone in the brown 2017 Toyota Camry, headed south on I-89.
Arteaga tailed Evans, calling for assistance and was soon joined by Troopers Daniel Livingstone and Brandon Stubbs as well as New London Police Officer James MacKenna, the report explained.
At the same time, other troopers further south down the interstate were preparing spike mats in case a pursuit were to develop.
Evans did not immediately stop when Arteaga and others lit up their blue lights but he eventually pulled over into the breakdown lane near Exit 6 in the town of Hopkinton, a few miles west of the city of Concord.
The AG’s report said that although Evans had come to a halt, “Evans refused the officer’s repeated commands to show his hands and, instead, kept his right hand concealed in his jacket. During this confrontation the officers had their guns drawn and pointed at Evans. Despite that, Evans then escalated the situation by telling Trooper Livingstone that, if he released his dog, the trooper `was a dead man’ or words to that effect.”
“Evans continued to refuse the officers’ orders to show his hands. Instead, Evans quickly pulled his hand out of his jacket and pointed his hands in a two-handed, `gun-style’ fashion at the officers.”
That sudden gesture “led officers to reasonably believe that he had a gun pointed at them and…prompted three officers to fire or attempt to fire their weapons at him,” the report continued.
“Officer MacKenna fired one shot from his department-issued rifle at Evans and missed.”
Both state troopers simultaneously fired their handguns but Trooper Livingstone’s weapon malfunctioned and did not fire at all while Trooper Arteaga got off two shots, one of which hit Evans in the left leg resulting in a serious wound, the report explained.
“After being shot, Evans got back into the stolen car and drove…a short distance before stopping in the breakdown lane again,” at which point police rushed the car, took Evans into custody, and began rendering first aid before he was eventually taken to a hospital.
While none of the officers at the scene, including a Sutton Police sergeant and a Warner Police officer who were present but did not fire their weapons, had any body cameras or dash cameras in their cruisers, some nearby motorists stopped and managed to film at least some of the incident with cell phone cameras. Those videos were subsequently shown to members of the Attorney General’s Office and the New Hampshire State Police Major Crime Unit and some or all of them may be made public in the days ahead.
“Those videos and photos have been reviewed and support the officers’ accounts of the shooting incident,” according to the preliminary report which also noted that “All of the police officers involved in the incident have been fully cooperative with the investigation and agreed to be interviewed.”
The report said that New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald “has concluded that Bryan Evans created a dangerous situation that prompted the officer-involved shooting” and it quoted a 1980 New Hampshire court decision which concluded that even in a situation when the perceived threat turns out not to be real in hindsight (in this case the lack of a real gun) that as long as an officer “reasonably believes” that someone is about to be shot or killed by an assailant he “need not have been confronted with actual deadly peril, as long as he could reasonably believe the danger to be real.”
“These actions and the speed at which they occurred, as well as the preceding conduct, led the officers on scene to reasonably conclude that they, as well as others in the immediate vicinity, to include nearby motorists, faced an imminent threat of deadly force from Evans. Although it later turned out that Evans did not have a gun, the officers’ belief that he did was reasonable under the circumstances, considering all of Evan’s words and actions, which strongly suggested that he had a gun.”
"Accordingly Trooper Arteaga and Officer MacKenna were legally justified in using deadly force against Evans. Trooper Livingstone was likewise justified in attempting to use deadly force against Evans.”
New Hampshire authorities said that additional charges against Evans remain a possibility and once all of his criminal cases have concluded the AG’s Office plans to release a more detailed final report on the shooting incident.
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