What we know about the fatal police shooting of N.H. teen Mischa Fay
Officers were called to the 17-year-old’s home several times last year for mental health aid, records show.
Officers with the Gilford Police Department were no strangers to the home on Varney Point Road, located in central New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Authorities had received seven emergency calls from the Gilford home since February 2022, all from family members seeking mental health assistance for 17-year-old Mischa Fay, according to the Concord Monitor.
And when police were dispatched to the home once again on Jan. 1, 2023, Fay was allegedly armed with a knife.
Minutes later, the teen was dead; New Hampshire officials said he was shot and killed by an officer.
Below, what we know so far about the fatal New Year’s Day shooting of the 17-year-old by police.
What we know about Mischa Fay
Friends and family are remembering Fay as a walking encyclopedia of all things “Star Wars” and a devoted hockey player and fan who counted the Merrill Fay Arena — named for his family — as a second home. His passions also included Weird Al, hot sauce, and boating adventures, according to his obituary.
He is survived by his parents, Merrill P. Fay and Beth Pataski-Fay; grandmother Suzanne Barron; sisters Carey Fay Blandford, Gwendolyn Crafts, and Cora Anne Crafts; brothers Jeffrey Fay and William Fay; as well as several nieces and a nephew.
“Mischa loved, and was so loved by many friends, teachers, and coaches…everyone who had the privilege of knowing him,” his obituary reads. “Many doctors, nurses, and health care workers also adored Mischa during his past two years of declining health.”
Police dispatch logs documented that decline, the emergency calls relaying moments where the teen reportedly refused to take his medication or acted out of control, according to the Concord Monitor.
Several times, police records indicate Fay was taken to a hospital, WMUR reports.
What happened on Jan. 1?
Around 9:52 p.m. on New Year’s Day, Gilford police officers responded to Varney Point Road for a 911 call about a resident armed with a knife, the New Hampshire attorney general’s office said in a press release.
Sgt. Douglas Wall and officer Nathan Ayotte encountered Fay inside the home, where Ayotte discharged his electronic taser and Wall fired his gun, the AG’s office said. The officers had body cameras, according to officials, though the footage has not yet been publicly released.
Fay was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead. An autopsy conducted Jan. 3 showed he died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, and the chief medical examiner ruled his manner of death a homicide, according to the AG’s office.
No officers or others were physically injured during the incident, officials said.
Both Ayotte and Wall — who are now on leave — had previously responded to the house and knew of Fay’s mental health history, the Monitor reported.
A Gilford Police Department Facebook post from November also indicates Ayotte attended a seminar on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for law enforcement officers, intended to provide “more options to safely and effectively control resistive subjects” while “reducing injury to both Officers and Suspects.”
“I’m very confused as to why a 17-year-old kid having some kind of breakdown or something going on at the house, then being tased, then being shot on top of it — I couldn’t believe it,” Gilford resident Ken Krauss told WMUR.
What advocates are saying
Fay’s death comes amid a heightened focus on New Hampshire’s approach to mental health services.
A 2021 Concord Monitor investigation found that more than 60% of the people shot and killed by New Hampshire police over the last decade had a mental illness.
In recent years, the state has taken several steps to reshape how it handles emergency calls for people in crisis, New Hampshire Public Radio reported. Those steps include the New Hampshire Rapid Response Access Point, which provides 24/7 crisis support via phone, chat, and an in-person mobile crisis response team.
“Addressing the mental health crisis in our state is the collective responsibility of every New Hampshire resident,” the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said in a statement following Fay’s death. “Together, we must advocate for policies and support to ensure Granite Staters impacted by mental illness are able to access resources necessary to live full lives in their community — lives that are not cut short through tragedy or untreated co-morbid conditions. Preventing such tragic outcomes requires a multi-faceted approach.”
To that end, NAMI New Hampshire called for several steps, including continued investment in rapid response and Crisis Intervention Team programs. The organization also urged the state legislature to establish a Mental Health Incident Review Board to analyze the mental health aspects of deadly force incidents.
Many details about the sequence of events that occurred on Varney Point Road Jan. 1 remain publicly unknown, including how much time elapsed between the firing of the taser and firearm. The attorney general’s office said an investigation into the exact circumstances remains underway.
“It is anticipated that the report regarding whether Sergeant Wall’s use of deadly force was justified will be released once the investigation is completed,” the AG’s office said Saturday. “No further updates are expected until the report is released.”
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