Report: Walpole police shooting justified
WALPOLE, N.H. -- The New Hampshire Attorney General on Wednesday released a report justifying the fatal force used by authorities on a man who robbed a store in Bellows Falls, Vt., last month.
The report details the armed robbery and police chase that resulted in the shooting death of the suspect, Larry Albert Bohannon, 51, on Friday, March 29. Bohannon, who was suspected of being involved in other unsolved robberies in the area, was determined by the A.G. to be a violent felon posing a danger to others.
According to the report, Officer Cameron Prior, on duty with the Alstead Police Department, followed the robbery get-away vehicle to Upper Walpole Road. Once the chase ended, Bohannon ignored commands to put his hands in the air and eventually pulled what appeared to be a black handgun out from under a blanket or jacket. The weapon turned out to be Phantom 83 caliber BB gun.
The report states Prior fired five shots into Bohannon's body after he failed to respond to the officer's demands to drop the weapon. An investigation revealed that Prior had reason to believe he and others were in danger of death or serious bodily injury by Bohannon.
According to the Attorney General's report, Nancy Staniszewski was working at her desk putting away the daily cash deposit at the Snow & Lear/Newton Business in Bellows Falls at approximately 4 p.m. when a man wearing a dark mask over his face appeared and pointed a black handgun at her. The store sells office supplies. The man, who turned out to be Bohannon, told Staniszewski not to look at him and grabbed the money from the desk before demanding Staniszewski's purse and taking the cash out of it. He then demanded the money in the cash register.
At that time, Sarah Ovenden entered the store to follow up on an item she had ordered earlier in the day. Bohannon then ordered both women to get on the floor and to not look at him. He ran out of the store (with an estimated $250 from the store and $100 from the purse) and Ovenden followed him while Staniszewski called 911.
Ovenden then saw Bohannon walk toward a black Chevy with a New Hampshire license plate.
Officer Prior, who works full time in Winchester and has been part-time with the Alstead Police Department since 2010, heard an alert from Cheshire County Dispatch to be on the look-out for a dark Chevy pick-up truck (with partial New Hampshire registration 322) operated by a male with a handgun.
Prior then headed for Drewsville and soon saw a Chevy pick-up truck pass him on River Street. He followed the vehicle and soon lost sight of it but then discovered it had pulled off the road behind an oil company on River Road with its engine still running. Prior parked his cruiser approximately 50 to 60 feet behind the truck but, fearing a shoot-out, backed up his vehicle when he saw Bohannon reaching around the cab of the truck, producing a gun. Bohannon got back onto the roadway and Prior told his dispatch that the suspect had brandished a firearm.
The pursuit continued down Route 123 toward Walpole. During the chase, Bohannon sped up and slowed down sporadically and Prior realized Bohannon was debating whether to continue driving or stop and engage the officer in a shoot-out. Bohannon reached speeds of 80 miles per hour in 35- to 40-mph zones, illegally passed numerous vehicles on the right and drove over the center line, nearly colliding with on-coming traffic.
As the pursuit approached Upper Walpole Road, Bohannon passed two Walpole cruisers and turned left onto Upper Walpole Road, into a residential neighborhood. The two Walpole officers -- Sgt. Justin Sanctuary and his brother, Noah Sanctuary -- took the lead in the pursuit at that time. Prior saw Bohannon in a yard on the left side of the road and Bohannon appeared to be trying to turn around to reverse direction. Prior positioned his cruiser to block the intersection and prevent Bohannon from leaving Upper Walpole Road while Justin Sanctuary deliberately used his cruiser to ram Bohannon's truck, causing it to roll onto its side.
Justin Sanctuary and Prior got out of their vehicles with their weapons drawn and Noah Sanctuary soon did the same. Prior began demanding Bohannon put up his hands. Bohannon, however, failed to comply and started moving around in the truck's cab, eventually pulling a black gun out from under a blanket or jacket. He appeared to be readying to fire it while standing on the passenger side window and Justin Sanctuary heard Prior shout, "Put the gun down."
Bohannon continued to handle his gun so Prior fired at him. But Bohannon still did not drop the weapon, forcing Prior to fire three more shots, this time specifically aiming for Bohannon's head and center body mass.
Bohannon, a Grafton resident, was found to have $407 in his pants pocket.
Dr. Thomas A. Andrew, the state's chief medical examiner, concluded Bohannon had been shot twice in chest, once in the right rib cage, and once in the left side of his abdomen, with an exit wound in the same location. He also sustained one gunshot wound to his head.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.
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