PPO procedures 'might be changed after a review'

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The scene the day of the shooting. Inset, Ben Shannon (Lebanon Voice file photo; inset, Rochester Police photo)

A Senior Assistant Attorney General confirmed on Tuesday that the Attorney General's Office as well as the Department of Corrections are still in the process of reviewing the events that led to the fatal shooting of an unarmed Rochester man by a Probation and Parole Officer in March 2014 and whether any changes might be made in policy and protols as a result of his death.
The fatal encounter occurred on March 10 around 3 p.m. as three Probation and Parole officers along with a Strafford County Sheriff's deputy attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Benjamin Shannon at his mother's residence at 28 Perwinkle Drive inside the Saks Trailer Park on Milton Road in Rochester.
New Hampshire Department of Corrections Probation/Parole Officers Ian Stringer, Jason Wirth, and Benjamin Densmore along with Strafford County Sheriff Deputy Brian Hester were there to check up on Shannon's older brother, Wayne Jr., a parolee, and Ben Shannon, on whom an arrest warrant had been filed earlier in the day for not complying with bail conditions following his arrest in a Rochester convenience store robbery in February.
A 20-page report released by the Attorney General's Office in July 2014 found that Wirth fired the fatal shots after he thought Ben Shannon was pointing a gun at him and threatening police that he had a gun.
However, it was later found that the object Shannon was clutching was a flip phone. He died later that night after being Medflighted to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.
The AG's July 2014 report absolved all four lawmen in their use of deadly force, but Senior Assitant Attorney General Lynmarie C. Cusack said that doesn't mean that policy won't be changed as a result of an internal investigation that is still ongoing.
"We are looking at policy and procedure directives to see what changes might need to be made," Cusack told The Lebanon Voice. "They might be changed after a review."
Prior to the AG report coming out, Beverly Shannon, and her other son, Wayne Shannon, announced a wrongful death lawsuit in April 2014, citing police used improper procedures in seeking to arrest Ben Shannon.
Their attorney, Peter McGrath, said lawmen made poor decisions the day of the incident, adding they should have set up a perimeter, called for backup and set up a safe scene to take Shannon into custody.
The AG's report indicated that Ben Shannon had yelled several times words to the effect of "I've got a gun. You're gonna have to kill me," according to Hester.
Prior to the fatal shots being fired by Wirth, Hester told investigators that he began to say, "Let's back out of here" but was cut off by the sound of gunfire.
Steve Lyons, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections which oversees the Parole and Probation Office, said any specific firearms protocol and procedure changes due to the incident would not be released to the public due to department policy.
"Firearms policy is confidential, because it has outlines and protocols, and if the public gets access to it, the inmates can get a hold of it, too," Lyons said recently.
It should be noted that if an inmate is on parole, the Department of Parole and Probation have wide latitude with respect to entering their residences, taking random drug tests and such, while probation violations are usually handled through the courts, Lyons said.
"Being on parole is much more restrictive," Lyons added. "A violation could put them right back in prison."
Meanwhile, almost two and a half years after the shooting the family of Ben Shannon reached an agreement with the state over their wrongful death suit that accused lawmen of making bad decisions the day of his death.
A 24-page summary judgment from Rockingham Superior Court Judge David Anderson that was cataloged on Aug. 12 found that former SCSO Deputy Brian Hester did not bear civil liability in Shannon's death. The summary judgement title page notes, "Neither party, No costs, No further action."
Meanwhile, a parallel lawsuit against the three Probation and Parole officers never made it to summary judgment as the Attorney General's Office reached an out-of-court settlement with Beverly Shannon, which ended any need to call for a second judgment, Senior Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth A. Lahey said last month.
Lahey noted a single lump-sum payment had been made to two plaintiffs as part of a settlement: one as Beverly Shannon and one as Beverly Shannon, executor of Ben Shannon's estate.
The summary judgment and out-of-court settlement ended a nearly 29-month court battle, motions of which fill three manila folders weighing almost five pounds.
Cusack acknowledged that the shooting of a firearm inside a congested trailer park like Saks carries its own risks but that sometimes law enforcement doesn't have a choice.
She added that there is no timetable for making a decision on whether any policy or protocols might be changed.

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