NH officer shot suspect in Vt. robbery 5 times
By Meghan Foley
KEENE Sentinel | April 19,2013
Keene Sentinel File Photo
Police work at the scene of a fatal shooting by a police officer in Walpole, N.H., on March 29.
WALPOLE, N.H. — A local police officer was justified when he shot and killed a man fleeing from a Vermont robbery last month, the New Hampshire attorney general’s office ruled.
Larry A. Bohannon, 51, of Grafton, N.H., died of gunshot wounds to the head, chest and abdomen after robbing an office supply store in Bellows Falls with a gun and then leading police on a high-speed chase to Walpole on March 29, according to the attorney general’s report.
The report says an investigation found Bohannon’s conduct led to a situation where part-time Alstead, N.H., officer Cameron Prior, who fatally shot Bohannon, “believed that he and others were in danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
Prior, who is also a full-time police officer in Winchester, N.H., was one of three officers involved in the chase and subsequent shooting, according to the report. The other officers were Walpole Police Sgt. Justin Sanctuary and his brother, Noah, an officer with the Walpole force.
The report said Prior shot Bohannon five times after Bohannon didn’t obey commands to show his hands or drop his gun.
Prior shot Bohannon twice in the chest and once in the rib cage, all on his right side, once in the abdomen on his left side, and once in the head, the report stated. The shot to his abdomen exited his body and then re-entered at his left groin, the report said.
Bohannon’s gun, which was black and looked like a real firearm, was determined after the incident to be a Phantom BB gun, according to the report.
At the time of his death, Bohannan had $407 in his pants pocket, the report stated. He was also a fugitive on parole.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Janice K. Rundles couldn’t say whether Bohannon’s death was “suicide by cop.”
“I don’t think we can really comment on that,” she said. “That would be really speculating his state of mind.”
Before being shot and killed, Bohannon robbed Snow & Lear/Newton Business in Bellows Falls, which is across the Connecticut River from Walpole, according to the attorney general’s report.
Bohannon entered the store at about 4 p.m. on March 29 when Nancy Staniszewski, an employee, was putting together the daily cash deposit, the report said.
Bohannon, who was wearing a dark mask, pointed a black handgun at her, repeatedly told her not to look at him, and grabbed money from a desk, the report said. He then took about $100 from Staniszewski’s purse and demanded money from the cash register, the report said. In all, about $350 was taken from the store.
During the robbery, a customer walked into the store and Bohannon yelled at the woman to “look away” and “get on the floor,” the report said.
Bohannon ran outside and the customer followed him, getting the description of his pickup and the first three numbers of a New Hampshire license plate, the report said. Bohannon pointed his gun at the customer and again told her to “look away,” the report said.
Staniszewski called police after Bohannon left the store.
Prior encountered Bohannon’s black Chevrolet pickup in Alstead, N.H., after hearing a broadcast alert for the vehicle. He pursued the truck and saw it pull off the road and go behind an oil company on Route 123 in Alstead.
The report said Prior positioned his cruiser behind the truck, saw Bohannon reach in the cab, and then raise his hand holding a black handgun.
Prior feared Bohannon was about to engage him in a shootout and backed up in the cruiser, the report said. Bohannon pulled his truck back on the road, and Prior pursued to Walpole.
Bohannon sped up and slowed down sporadically, at times reaching speeds of 80 mph and illegally passing vehicles on the right and over the center line, nearly colliding with oncoming traffic, the report said.
Meanwhile, the Sanctuary brothers, the Walpole police officers, joined the pursuit near the intersection of Route 123 and Abenaki Lane in Walpole.
The three police cruisers followed the truck onto Upper Walpole Road, where it turned left onto the front lawn of a residence and Bohannon tried to turn around, the report said. Justin Sanctuary then deliberately rammed the pickup, knocking the truck onto its passenger side.
All three officers got out of their cruisers with weapons drawn and positioned themselves around the truck, the report said.
Prior and Noah Sanctuary saw Bohannon holding a handgun toward them as he crouched down near the front passenger-side window, according to the report.
Prior shouted at Bohannon to show his hands and drop the gun, the report said, but Bohannon continued to hold the weapon as if he was preparing to fire it.
Prior fired one or two rounds at Bohannon, and while he believed the shots hit him, the suspect didn’t stop making movements with the gun, the report said. Prior then fired another three shots at Bohannon’s head and body, the report said, and Bohannon slumped over in the truck’s cab.
According to the shooting report, an investigation into Bohannon’s background concluded he “did not intend to be taken into custody, and would have taken extreme measures to avoid it.”
At the time of Bohannon’s death, a warrant was out for his arrest for violating parole, the report said. Several police departments in western New Hampshire and eastern Vermont were also investigating whether Bohannon was responsible for unsolved robberies in those areas.
The March 29 shooting wasn’t the first Prior has been involved in, though he did not personally shoot the suspect in the previous incident.
In June 2011, he was one of four officers from Winchester and Swanzey, N.H., to respond to a call of a suicidal Winchester man armed with a knife. Prior, along with a Swanzey officer, fired their Tasers at the man, Christopher D. Seksinsky, as he moved toward them with the knife, authorities said.
Seksinsky was not brought down by the Tasers and he was shot and killed by Swanzey Police Officer Robert Blodgett, authorities said. The shooting was later ruled justified by the attorney general’s office.