OSSIPEE — A local man who was injured in a shooting involving a State Police SWAT unit in November 2019 was indicted by a Carroll County Superior Court grand jury last month.
The grand jury on Dec. 20 handed up two felony reckless conduct indictments against John Swanson, 53, of Ossipee. The first says that Swanson “recklessly engaged in conduct which placed, or may have placed another, in danger of serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon as defined in RSA 625:11, V; To wit, John Swanson discharged a firearm at police officers responding to 35 Oakwood Drive, West Ossipee, NH.” The second indictment alleges he did the same thing a second time.
Ossipee police officers arrived at Swanson’s Oakwood Drive home at about 2:45 p.m. on Nov. 7 to serve him with several legal documents and to arrest him, a press release issued by the state Attorney General’s Office said.
According to Kate Spiner, director of communications for the state Attorney General’s Office, Swanson refused to come out of his home, and state police officers were called to assist with the unfolding situation.
“At approximately 7:56 p.m., Mr. Swanson was shot during a confrontation with the police,” Spiner said, adding Swanson sustained injuries and received treatment.
The three who discharged their weapons were identified as Nicholas Levesque, a state trooper for seven years; Michael Cedrone, a 15-year trooper; and Nicholas Cyr, a 14-year trooper.
The affidavit also notes that Swanson was taken to Memorial Hospital for a mental health evaluation.
Days before the officer-involved shooting, Swanson and a relative were taken to separate hospitals.
The events leading to the indictments are explained in a 4½-page probable cause affidavit written by Ossipee Police Sgt. Justin Swift.
Between Nov. 4 and 7, Swanson made “numerous” calls to 911 to complain that a pistol had been taken from him. On Nov. 4, a friend of the family made an emergency call on behalf of a family member of Swanson. Officer Tyler Eldridge responded.
Ossipee police were aware that Swanson suffered from mental illness and had been told by the woman who lived with him that Swanson was off his medications and she believed that he owned at least one gun.
On Nov. 6, Swift said he tried explaining to Swanson that police didn’t take any guns and told him to stop making non-emergency 911 calls. “It was at that time, Swanson stated that if I did not return his gun that he would put a bullet in my head,” said Swift.
The following day, Swanson called 911 again. When Eldridge called Swanson back, Swanson told Eldridge he would shoot any police officers who come to his house.
Police also learned that Swanson was barred from gun possession by the state of Florida.
Police prepared an arrest warrant for the threats against officers and a search warrant on the basis that they believed Swanson illegally possessed a firearm. Ossipee police did a threat assessment and called in the SWAT unit to assist with Swanson’s arrest. Just before service was made, the Circuit Court issued a “temporary order of protection” on behalf of the relative.
During the afternoon of the shooting, police set up a perimeter around the home. “Lt. Anthony Castaldo of the Ossipee Police Department attempted to contact Swanson by utilizing a loudspeaker,” said Swift. “Swanson replied in an incoherent manner, yelling things like ‘fake cops’ from the window on the side of the home.”
Swift reported hearing at least five gunshots, three of which came from inside the home but didn’t sound like the rounds exiting the home. The other two shots sounded like they came from outside, he said.
SWAT team members said they saw Swanson inside the home breaking at least one window with the butt of a rifle, said Swift.
After he exchanged gunfire with the (SWAT team) officers,” Swanson was taken into custody, said Swift. “Swanson was taken to Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro to be treated for his injuries sustained by that altercation,” he said, adding, “Swanson was later transported to Portsmouth Regional Hospital for further care.”
After the shooting, Ossipee Officer Jason Baker looked at surveillance footage at the Ossipee Country Store, which is about 100 yards from 35 Oakwood Drive. He said footage from a couple days prior showed Swanson walking into the store with “an assault-style rifle.” According to Baker, the footage showed Swanson putting the gun on the floor, buying some cigarettes and leaving.
Swanson is also charged with four misdemeanors consisting of two counts of criminal threatening for allegedly threatening Swift and Eldridge, and two counts of violation of the protective order for possessing guns.
Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius on Dec. 16 ordered Swanson to be released on personal recognizance so he could be transferred to a rehabilitation facility, the name of which is under seal.
On Jan. 1, attorney Michael J. Zaino of Hampton filed an appearance notice to represent Swanson.
Meanwhile, Ossipee Police Chief Joe Duchesne will be asking voters on March 10 to support a warrant article calling for $27,000 for protective equipment for officers.
Duchesne said he would like a ballistic vest capable of taking rifle rounds, ballistic helmets and some throw-over camouflage rain gear that would keep officers warm and help conceal them. He also is asking for better sights for police firearms.
The ballistic vests officers use now only protect against handguns, not rifles. “If there’s one thing it made me realize, it’s how grossly unprepared my department is for a situation like that,” Duchesne told selectmen recently.