Bodycam Shows Police Shooting Of Ethan Freeman in Thornton, New Hampshire

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Published on 17 Mar 2021, 1:11
** (Disclaimer: This video content is intended for educational and informational purposes only) **
Thornton, New Hampshire — The Attorney General's Office released body camera footage in New Hampshire fatal police shooting of 37-year-old Ethan Freeman. On the late afternoon of October 19, 2020, Police Officer Matthew Yao of the Thornton Police Department went to a residence on Four Wheel Drive in Thornton in response to a 911 call seeking police assistance for a man who had injured himself. The caller was the homeowner, who had called about his tenant, Ethan Freeman, who had requested an ambulance because he was bleeding and claiming of chest pain. Officer Yao arrived at the residence by himself, and walked up to where he believed Freeman lived. Officer Yao had interacted with Freeman earlier in the day, when Freeman had requested an ambulance while inside the lobby of a local school.

During that earlier encounter, Freeman was cooperative and had brief and nonconfrontational interactions with Officer Yao. Officer Yao walked up to Freeman's apartment, and in a conversational tone asked Freeman in substance what issue he was having. Freeman replied by yelling various obscenities. When Officer Yao looked into Freeman's apartment, he saw that Freeman was completely naked, bleeding, masturbating with one hand, and brandishing a wooden furniture piece in the other hand. Freeman continued to yell obscenities at the officer, and also repeatedly threatened to kill him. In response, Officer Yao immediately moved away from the front of the apartment and attempted to talk to Freeman in order to calm him down. Officer Yao also drew his service pistol and called over his mobile radio that his life had been threatened.

At that point, Officer Yao could no longer see into Freeman's apartment, but could hear noises consistent with objects being broken inside it. Officer Yao tried to talk to Freeman and calm him down. Freeman spoke with Officer Yao, and repeatedly threatened to kill him. About a minute after Officer Yao withdrew from the front of Freeman's apartment, Freeman jumped through one of the windows of his apartment. He was still naked and covered in blood. Freeman also told Officer Yao, "You're dead," and walked directly towards the officer. Officer Yao repeatedly yelled at Freeman to stay back, while himself walking backwards in an effort to create distance between himself and Freeman. Despite the officer repeatedly yelling at Freeman to stay back, Freeman continued to walk towards Officer Yao, approaching faster than the officer was able to back up. Because Freeman was so close to Officer Yao, the officer did not believe that he could safely transition from his drawn pistol to the less-than-lethal alternatives that he carried with him.

When Freeman was about ten feet away, and still advancing on Officer Yao, the officer fired two shots in quick succession. Freeman collapsed to the ground, and died from his gunshot wounds. Officer Yao explained that he shot Freeman because he feared for his life. Specifically, Officer Yao believed that when Freeman reached him — in a matter of seconds — he would do what he had repeatedly threatened to do — kill him — by taking and using against the officer his own firearm. Officer Yao also believed that if he was able to survive the struggle, Freeman could maim or otherwise seriously injure him. During the entirety of Officer Yao's encounter with Freeman at the Four Wheel Drive residence, he was wearing a department-issued body camera that contemporaneously recorded events. The landlord who had called 911 for Freeman also saw the shooting.

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0:00​ - Bodycam: School
5:09​ - Bodycam: Hospital
7:15​ - Bodycam: Arrival at House
10:03​ - Bodycam: Shooting