By DAMIEN FISHER, In DepthNH.org
The estate of Cody LaFont, the Claremont man shot and killed by then-police officer Ian Kibbe, has dropped the federal lawsuit against Kibbe and the city.
The since disgraced Kibbe was the only witness to the Sept. 25, 2016, shooting death of the 25-year-old LaFont, and the Attorney General’s Office deemed it a justifiable shooting following the initial investigation. However, the state decided to review the shooting after Kibbe’s subsequent conviction for faking evidence at a 2018 arrest.
Jared Bedrick, the attorney for Cody LaFont’s estate, which is administered by his mother, Tracy McEachern, said the case was withdrawn because it was taking such an emotional toll on the family.
Bedrick said the family was daunted by the prospect of fighting the case for a couple more years because of COVID-19 pandemic court delays. The case was filed last year, one day before the statute of limitations would have run out.
“It’s hard for any person to continue litigation that’s about the death of their son,” Bedrick said.
Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase said Monday: “I can confirm that the plaintiff has filed a voluntary nonsuit, or withdrawal of the lawsuit, against the city and others in the federal court. There was no settlement in this matter. We have nothing further to comment at this time.”
The lawsuit claims that Kibbe used excessive force when he shot and killed LaFont, and that the city and the department violated LaFont’s rights. The lawsuit claims LaFont was suffering from depression and had called police for help when Kibbe was sent to his home on Sept. 25, 2016.
Several Claremont officers had a history dealing with LaFont for various issues related to his mental health and alcohol problems, including Kibbe, according to the lawsuit.
“Cody was well known at the Claremont Police Department. Between March of 2015 and September of 2016, Cody encountered the following Claremont police officers: Aaron Reichert, Ian Kibbe, Megan McDevitt, Brent Wilmot, Joshua Wade, Anthony Shepherd, and Christy Atkinson. Notably, Cody encountered many of the aforementioned officers on multiple occasions,” the lawsuit said.
“(T)he City of Claremont—and its agents Brent Wilmot and Ian Kibbe —knew or should have known that Cody LaFont was suffering from a mental disability such that he was a ‘qualified individual with a disability’ as defined by the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA.
“Under the ADA, Wilmot and Kibbe had a duty ‘to make appropriate efforts to determine whether perceived strange or disruptive behavior … is the result of a disability.’ Instead of perceiving LaFont’s disruptive behavior as being the manifestation of mental illness, ignored obvious pleas for help, and instead instructed an officer to respond to the house to tell LaFont to stop calling for help,” the lawsuit states.
Kibbe shot and killed LaFont, claiming that LaFont had a pistol. Kibbe told investigators that LaFont refused multiple orders to drop the gun, and he feared for his own life when he fired three shots from his service pistol, killing LaFont.
According to the Attorney General’s initial report that cleared Kibbe, the revolver, which may not have even worked, was purchased by LaFont even though his family said they believed they had previously removed all of the guns from his possession.
Though Kibbe was initially cleared in the initial investigation, the Attorney General’s follow up investigation found that the shooting could not be considered legally justified because of Kibbe’s history of lying under oath.
“Accordingly, based on a review of the case and considering all the evidence, including Mr. Kibbe’s subsequent criminal conduct and the questions it raised about his credibility as a police officer, the Attorney General’s Office can no longer conclude that Mr. Kibbe’s actions were legally justified,” Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said in last year’s reversal. “Instead, the Office has concluded that it could not disprove Mr. Kibbe’s self-defense claim, beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore no criminal charges will be filed against Mr. Kibbe as a result of Mr. LaFont’s death.”
Kibbe was sentenced last year to three months in jail after he pleaded guilty to one count of unsworn falsification and one count of obstruction of government administration related to a February 2018 arrest.