Police shooting victim’s family fights release of all body cam footage

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Photo released by the Attorney General's Office of the incident just before the shooting of Hagen Esty-Lennon July 6 in Bath.
Photo released by the Attorney General’s Office of the incident just before the shooting of Hagen Esty-Lennon July 6 in Bath.

 

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Sept. 10, 2015, story updated 6 p.m. –  The family of Hagen Esty-Lennon on Sept. 10 asked the court to bar release of any portion of video or audio captured on police body cameras and a cruiser camera of the incident July 6, when two Haverhill police officers shot Esty-Lennon to death in Bath.

Concord lawyer Diane Puckhaber filed the motion to reconsider Judge Peter Fauver’s recent decision ordering the release of redacted portions of the police video and full release of the audio on Sept. 21.

Puckhaber, representing Esty-Lennon’s former wife, Lisa Esty-Lennon, and the couple’s two minor children, said there is no legitimate public interest in releasing any part of the audio and video footage sought by several news outlets, including InDepthNH.org.

“Rather, the media’s insistence on releasing all and/or part of both is an effort to satisfy the public’s interest in ‘sensationalism,’” Puckhaber wrote in the motion for reconsideration.

She also filed a motion to stay the release until further orders by the court or an order from the Supreme Court if an appeal is taken.

Puckhaber said there is proposed legislation pending in the Legislature that would create guidelines regarding the images and audio recordings from police body cameras.

“The Legislature or the Supreme Court needs to give clear guidance on this unique issue of first impression,” Puckhaber wrote.

Fauver’s original ruling ordered release of the videos and audio except for images of the shooting and bloody “up-close images of (Esty-Lennon) lying in his own blood” after being shot by Officers Ryan Jarvis and Greg Collins.

Fauver ordered redaction of the following video: “Up-close and graphic images of the officers shooting the decedent, the decedent bleeding profusely while lying on the ground, the officers turning over the decedent to secure him in handcuffs, the officers removing the decedent’s knife from his reach, and medical responders placing the decedent on a stretcher and into an ambulance.”

Fauver said federal courts have held that the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) “recognizes family members’ right to personal privacy with respect to their close relative’s death-scene images.”

Whether police body camera footage should be made public “is a unique issue that should not be decided case-by-case, but rather by the Supreme Court,” Puckhaber wrote.

Puckhaber said the family has already suffered damage from the attorney general’s earlier release of still images of the scene just before the fatal shooting.

“The release in whole or in part is an invasion of their privacy and will only serve to cause further damage to the family,” Puckhaber wrote.

On Tuesday, Concord attorney William Chapman filed a motion on behalf of Newspapers of New Hampshire Inc. asking the judge to clarify that the redacted footage scheduled for release Sept. 21 would include “the shooting itself.”

Chapman said it was important for the public to see the video of the shooting to determine whether it was in fact “legally justified” as determined by Attorney General Joseph Foster.

Posted Sept. 10, 2015

A lawyer has asked the court to clarify its order on the release of footage showing the death of Hagen Esty-Lennon by ruling that all the images of “the shooting itself” captured on the body cameras of the two Haverhill police officers who shot him be released.

Representing Newspapers of New Hampshire Inc., attorney William Chapman filed the motion for clarification Tuesday in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord.

“Only by release of all the images of the shooting itself captured by the officers’ body cameras can the public assess their decision to use deadly force and, as importantly, the attorney general’s conclusion that their conduct was ‘legally justified,'” Chapman wrote.

Esty-Lennon’s former wife had argued release of the gruesome images would be detrimental to Esty-Lennon’s two minor children. Judge Peter Fauver agreed in his ruling Sept. 4 that the family had a “strong privacy interest in preventing the release of these disturbing death scene images.”

Fauver did order the release of redacted footage from body cameras worn by the two Haverhill police officers who shot Esty-Lennon on July 6 in Bath, along with footage from a third officer’s body camera who arrived after the shooting and footage from a cruiser dashboard camera.

Authorities said that Esty-Lennon had been involved in a car crash and was armed with a knife before he was killed.

Chapman said because of Fauver’s two different descriptions of Esty-Lennon’s family’s privacy interests, Newspapers of New Hampshire was uncertain whether the images of the “shooting itself” are to be released Sept. 21 after redaction under the direction of the Attorney General’s Office.

Chapman said the motion didn’t forgo his client’s rights to seek other post-decision relief after the redacted videos and audios are released.


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About Carol Robidoux 5358 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.