MANCHESTER, NH – Pointing a loaded gun at protesters is clearly a case of criminal threatening, a prosecutor told a Hillsborough County Superior Court North jury, while a defense attorney maintained pointing a gun at a dozen people coming at you is a case of self-defense.
The statements were made Monday in day one of the trial of Mark Kimball, 20, of Manchester, charged with three counts of criminal threatening for pointing a loaded 9 mm handgun at a crowd and at two individuals, Matthew Lawrence, 37, and Forrest Rapier, 32, during the May 20, 2020, Black Lives Matter protest. About 50 to 100 people had gathered outside the Manchester police station that day, after a peaceful downtown march, to talk with police about what changes could be made in the city.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney James Bradley Bolton told the jury of six women and seven men that police and the protesters reached a consensus and decided to jointly participate in a moment of silence for George Floyd, a Black man murdered by a Minneapolis police officer when he placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes.
That period of silence, Bolton said, was broken when Scott Kimball, 43, and his son drove by the station in a black pickup truck with a large Trump 2020 flag in the bed of the truck.
The horn beeped, profanities were shouted and both of the Kimballs gave the crowd the finger as they passed. Scott Kimball made a U-turn and parked in a lot across the street from the station, about 50 to 75 yards away.
The profanities and insults, from both the Kimballs and people in the crowd, continued. People started running towards the truck when Officer Justin Breton heard a “pop.” Breton would later learn it was not a gunshot but a water bottle hitting the truck, thrown by a woman in the crowd.
The Kimballs got out of the truck and shouts of, “He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun,” could be heard coming from the crowd.
“You want some of this?” Mark Kimball reportedly asked, holding a gun in his hand pointing it at the crowd and at Lawrence and Rapier, according to the prosecutor.
His father was armed with a loaded .44 caliber handgun. Scott Kimball pleaded guilty in February to two counts of criminal threatening and was sentenced to 12 months in jail with pretrial credit of 254 days. He was ordered to undergo racial equality training and a mental health evaluation.
Bolton showed the jury videos taken from officers’ body cams and a video recorded by a woman on the scene who later posted it on Facebook.
Breton is recorded running towards the truck and arresting Mark Kimball. Police confiscate his fully loaded 9 mm handgun that held 16 rounds.
Bolton maintained no reasonable person would have “found it necessary to display a weapon in these circumstances.”
Defense Attorney Justin C. Shepherd told the jury things unfolded quickly that day. Law enforcement were stationed outside the station because of protests across the nation had erupted in violence and because of the potential for that to occur in Manchester.
He said given the crowd approaching the truck, Kimball was justified in displaying the gun. “It was reasonable to assume with that group approaching that it meant to harm,” Shepherd said.
The judge, lawyers, jurors and spectators all wore masks and practiced social distancing inside the courtroom. When Officer Breton took the stand, he testified wearing a see-through mask, as did all the witnesses. He said Officer Michael Lavallee reached the truck before he did and took Kimball’s weapon into evidence.
He said that day, three detectives and 15 to 25 officers were stationed in the rear of the police department in the event a disturbance occurred with the protesters. The police chief and a captain were also at the station.
Shepherd asked Breton, hypothetically, if as an officer you are running down a street and a group of people who don’t like police are yelling and chasing you, are you going to pull your gun to defend yourself. Breton said at that point he would.
Napier also testified to locking eyes with Kimball as he held a gun.
He agreed with Shepherd, however, that he was not personally threatened that day but that Kimball had pointed the gun at everyone in the crowd.