Archive for November 14th, 2007

Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems

November 14, 2007

Back in May I commented briefly on the multiple shooting in Franconia, New Hampshire, where a 24 year old man by the name of Liko Kenney shot and killed Cpl. Bruce McKay a police officer who had pulled him over, ostensibly for speeding. Kenney was subsequently shot and killed by a passerby, Gregory Floyd.

The initial news articles did not cover the incident in any depth. They pretty much read as: Young, troubled man shoots police officer in the back and is then shot and killed by civilian hero who stops to assist officer.

Of course it was never as simple as that.

It turned out that Kenney and McKay had some history between them with Kenney complaining of harassment.

The video from the police car only shows part of the story.

It shows Cpl. McKay, appearing to gratuitously pepper spray Kenney and then turning his back on him and walking away. Then Kenney shooting the officer, although McKay is off camera at the time. Kenney then drives his car out of the range of the camera and the rest of the incident plays out unrecorded.

Gregory Floyd was initially portrayed as a hero and there is no question that he stepped into the situation and took charge when he saw the police officer go down. But some of the ‘hero’ image washed away when Floyd turned out to be not as upstanding a character as originally presented.

West then references an incident at Floyd’s home in 1997, when a scuffle with a meter reader led to state police coming to Floyd’s home, where he threatened three state police and was arrested for being a felon in possession of firearms. The case ended up being dismissed in court later, court records show.

West was one of the three state troopers who Floyd had threatened to give a third eye. West asks Floyd in the interview the night of the Kenney and McKay shootings about his use of firearms since that arrest, and he said he did some shooting on Prince Edward Island within the past year, and his wife owns a gun, but he does not.

The interview of Floyd by the police along with their comments is interesting as well.

Floyd spoke to the police three hours after the shooting and recalled it in detail, but his details changed as the interview went on. And sometimes Floyd’s account was inconsistent with other evidence.

He was sure McKay was driving a police car. McKay had a SUV. He remembered the location of Kenney’s and McKay’s vehicles incorrectly; he said McKay’s front end was against Kenney’s back end, but the vehicles were nose-to-nose.

More significantly, Floyd initially told the police at least twice that he shot Kenney without saying a word to him. Later, Floyd said he saw Kenney trying to reload his gun and told him to stop. Later yet, Floyd said he was screaming at Kenney to “either put (the gun) down or you’re gonna die.”

Floyd did not tell the police that after Kenney was dead, he screamed at Kenney’s passenger to hand him Kenney’s gun. Nor did he tell the police that the passenger told Floyd he was afraid he would kill him too. Floyd also left out any mention of his boasting that he’d shot many people before and was on medication that might spare him punishment.

Nor did he mention firing McKay’s gun into the air as a warning to Kenney’s passenger.

And Floyd told the police that after the shootings, he waited for the police to arrive before placing the guns in his hands, McKay’s and Kenney’s, on the grass. The police officer who first saw Floyd after the shootings recalled their interaction very differently.

The police officer said he had to tell Floyd several times to lower the guns. The officer said when Floyd finally did put the guns down, he told the officer, “Easy son, I’m quicker than you.”

Yesterday, Jeff Strelzin, chief of the homicide unit in the state attorney general’s office, said it’s not uncommon for witnesses in stressful situations to have different accounts or even changing accounts. “No matter what case it is, we will also get some discrepancies,” Strelzin said. “People have different vantage points. They are perceiving things differently. They are experiencing different stress.”

Discrepancies do not necessarily mean someone is lying, he said.

For example, Floyd’s son, who was with Floyd in their truck, told the police he saw Kenney giving McKay the middle finger early into the stop. The video camera in McKay’s police SUV tells a different story. While Kenney may appear from a distance to be gesturing with his middle finger, the video shows he is instead pointing south, toward Easton, in an effort to have McKay let him drive on.

“It’s not that he’s lying or misrepresenting,” Strelzin said of Floyd’s son. “He’s mistaken.”

Strelzin said the state police and prosecutors from his office investigated the shootings of McKay and Kenney thoroughly throughout the night. By the next afternoon, when Ayotte cleared Floyd of wrongdoing, they had witness accounts from the two Floyds and Kenney’s passenger as well as others nearby. They also had physical evidence, namely an empty gun clip in Kenney’s car showing that he had reloaded and bullet holes and shell casings to account for the fired shots.

Strezlin said while some of the finer details didn’t match, the witnesses’ general version of events matched and lined up with the physical evidence. It also ruled out other theories. For example, some in town complained after the shooting that Floyd had endangered Kenney’s passenger by firing a gun at his feet. The passenger did not report that in his police interview (he actually said Floyd had done a “great thing” helping McKay). And the evidence at the scene showed the shots had been fired in different directions, not at the passenger.

In New Hampshire, a person is allowed to use deadly force to protect himself or another person if they both cannot retreat to safety. Given what witnesses and evidence told about the shooting scenes, Ayotte determined that Floyd believed McKay and possibly himself faced an imminent threat. And McKay had no hope of getting to safety because he was pinned under Kenney’s car.

For those reasons Ayotte said Floyd was justified.

Next she considered Floyd’s illegal use of a firearm. State law includes a “competing harms” statute that says a person will not be punished for breaking a law if he does so to avoid a greater harm to himself or another.

Floyd didn’t arrive on the scene with a gun and grabbed McKay’s only after McKay was badly injured and in danger, Ayotte concluded. He was justified there too, she decided.

Unfortunately, no one comes across as being a very sympathetic character in this and in the end we’ll never know exactly why anyone did what they did. To some Lilo Kenney was just a good kid who had made some bad choices and was trying to get his life together. To others he was dangerous and unpredictable. Some saw Cpl. Bruce McKay as a bully and a vindictive officer while many spoke highly of him. Gregory Floyd stepped into a dangerous situation in order to assist a downed police officer, but his past history, after-the-fact comments and his actions in shooting Kenney leave many questioning his motives.

We’ll never know why McKay pepper sprayed Kenney and his passenger and then turned his back and walked away or why Kenney reacted by shooting the officer. Fear? Anger?

Regardless, two men are dead and their family and friends are in pain. A tragic incident that probably never should have happened.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.