Unarmed New Hampshire man shot in the head with a shotgun during botched drug sting

Police tape
Investigators take pictures of Alex Cora DeJesus' bullet riddled car.  (Source: WCVB)
Investigators take pictures of Alex Cora DeJesus’ bullet riddled car. (Source: WCVB)

WEARE, NH — A “poorly planned” sting operation left an unarmed New Hampshire man dead; shot behind the wheel in the bloody and unnecessary War on Drugs.  Despite evidence that contradicted officers’ claims about having their lives endangered, the shooters were not fired and faced no legal consequences.

The incident occurred when the small town of Weare (pop. 8,700) tasked its police department with forcibly preventing citizens from getting high without government permission.   To this end, a sting operation was set up to attempt to arrest a small-time drug suspect, 35-year-old Alex Cora DeJesus.

The first attempt to arrest DeJesus failed, according to the Attorney General Joseph Foster’s investigation report, when an initial staged drug transaction netted a woman instead of DeJesus.  The woman had allegedly been sent by DeJesus to pick up drugs because he was already too high to drive, foiling investigators’ plans.  She was arrested, and subsequently was strong-armed into becoming an informant against DeJesus in exchange for a chance to keep her freedom.

Alex Cora DeJesus
Alex Cora DeJesus

On August 14th, 2013, a second staged drug transaction was orchestrated by the Weare police, through the use of multiple informants.   After 10:00 p.m., DeJesus was lured to a Dunkin Donuts parking lot, according to the investigation, to meet the informants and to perform a transaction worth $600.

DeJesus was in his vehicle with his girlfriend when the informants walked up to the window of his parked car and interacted with him.  When they walked away, police gave the signal to “go, go, go,” and officers that were hiding nearby in unmarked cruisers swarmed the darkened parking lot with lights and sirens blaring.

The team — comprised of Sgt. Kenneth Cox, Sgt. Joseph Kelley, Officer Nicholas Nadeau, Detective Frank Hebert, and Officer Brandon Montplaisir — had evidently not agreed to any sort of plan on what they intended to do following their haphazard attempt to box DeJesus in.  Three police vehicles veered into the lot so recklessly that two of them collided.  Officers exited their vehicles and screamed at DeJesus with guns pointed at him.

“Despite being virtually boxed in by the unmarked cruisers and being commanded to stop at gun point by two uniformed police officers, DeJesus did not get out of his vehicle,” the attorney general’s report said. “Instead, he drove his vehicle between two unmarked cruisers, turned sharply to the right, drove over the grass and then onto Route 114, southbound. A few hundred yards south of Lanctot’s Plaza the DeJesus’s vehicle veered off Route 114 and into a grove of trees at Greaney’s Farm Stand.”

Two officers opened fire on the fleeing vehicle.  First, Officer Cox fired his .45 caliber pistol, aiming for DeJesus’ back.  Then Officer Nadeau fired his pump shotgun at the side of DeJesus’ head as he passed by.  A single 12-gauge slug struck DeJesus in the temple.

Both shooters used the excuse that they had to use deadly force in order to stop DeJesus from striking others with his car.  This logic is somewhat perplexing, due to the fact that killing a driver only ensures that the vehicle he is operating will continue on its prealigned course.  For this reason, shooting fleeing vehicles is expressly prohibited by some departments.

The scene where Alex Cora DeJesus' car came to a stop after crashing into a red Saturn. (Source: WMUR)
The scene where Alex Cora DeJesus’ car came to a stop after crashing into a red Saturn. (Source: WMUR)

Predictably, the gunshot killed DeJesus, and his vehicle continued onto a highway and crashed into an ice cream stand, a red Saturn sedan, and finally into a grove of trees — a course that could have easily endangered others.

Also, predictably, the department stood by the botched operation.  “I think everybody is confident that their actions are correct, but that has to be validated somehow,” said Arthur Walker, who served as town’s interim police administrator.

Attorney General Joseph Foster investigated the shooting, and remarked that “there was no indication that DeJesus was armed or likely to be armed at the time of the incident.” He also noted that some evidence disputed Officer Nadeau’s contention that he thought the speeding car was going to hit him or Kelley.

The AG discovered that the officer who fired the shotgun, Nicholas Nadeau, had been on duty for 25 of the previous 29 hours at the time of the shooting.  He called the operation “ill-conceived” and “rash and poorly-planned.”

Nonetheless, the attorney general declined to press charges against either officer, saying that he was “unable to determine whether or not Nadeau’s conduct was justified,” and that “there is insufficient evidence to prove that Nadeau’s mistaken beliefs were unreasonable beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Not only were the shooters not criminally charged, but both were retained by the department and remain active to this day.   In fact, the department has biographies of each officer available on its website.   (See:  Sergeant Ken Cox, Officer Nicholas Nadeau)  Their profiles reveal that they are both military combat veterans who brought their talents from the Iraq War home to fight the Drug War.

In June 2014, the town of Weare settled with the administrator of DeJesus’ estate for $300,000 in an agreement that waived the right to sue the town for wrongful death.

DeJesus may not have been a model citizen, having a history of drug charges, but there was nothing in his history that suggested he was violent towards anyone else.  He was ultimately killed while unarmed in America’s bloody, senseless experiment with prohibition.

Click here to read about other casualties of the Drug War.

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Weare Department of Police Service (Weare, New Hampshire)
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