LACONIA — Several city police officers are on leave after witnessing a man shoot himself in the department’s parking lot on Sunday afternoon.
Police Chief Matt Canfield said he was concerned for “the welfare of our officers witnessing this stuff, especially younger officers. It’s traumatic, it’s life changing for sure,” he said. Four officers were pursuing the man when he pulled into the department’s parking lot, stepped out of his vehicle, pointed a pistol in the air, then shot and killed himself.
Rev. Marc Drouin was called in to counsel the officers in the wake of the incident, Canfield said. The responding officers will remain on leave for an undetermined amount of time, and will only return to work once they have been cleared by a psychologist.
Police are not naming the shooter, citing a policy against identifying victims of suicide.
The incident began at about 4:30 p.m., on Vincent Drive in Gilford. Deputy Chief Kris Kelley said his department received a call about a domestic violence situation in which a man fired a shot at a vehicle. The alleged shooter then drove off, and Gilford officers encountered him on Morrill Street, where they attempted to pull him over. Instead, the driver continued, and the chase was picked up by Laconia police when he crossed into the city.
Canfield said the driver continued, at a high rate of speed, onto Union Avenue, then onto Church Street, right onto North Main Street and then left onto New Salem Street, and finally into the police parking lot.
Canfield said the man initially held the pistol pointed skyward, with his left hand open and help up, then shot himself. Officers attempted CPR, and the man was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital, Canfield said, but, “for all intents and purposes, he was dead right there.”
“Fortunately, nobody else was killed, no one else was injured, and he didn’t point the gun at our officers,” Canfield said, calling it “certainly a first” such incident in his more than two decades of police work.
Canfield called the incident “extremely horrific and tragic for everyone involved,” and said the effects will be felt by more than just the officers who were on duty at the time. It will be felt by all members of the department, their family members, and even other city departments.
“Having someone shoot themself in our parking lot is a very scary thing, for sure,” Canfield said.
He said it will be a “challenge” to fill shifts while the four officers are on leave.
“It presents a staffing challenge, but department support has been overwhelming, people stepping up to cover shifts and do what’s needed,” Canfield said. “We’ll get it covered, for the safety of the city.”
On Monday, Canfield was personally dealing with the event by focusing on the grace that allowed the event to unfold in the way that it did. The shooter’s first round – fired on the road – failed to meet its target, he didn’t harm anyone while he was speeding through the city, and he didn’t fire at officers or force them to use their weapons on him, any one of which would have made a difficult day even worse.
“I just thank God that nobody else was hurt,” Canfield said.
Gilford’s Kelley echoed that sentiment. “We’re glad no one else was hurt; it was a tragic circumstance, and someone lost their life,” he said.