Former officer talks about pulling the trigger
By PHILLIP BANTZ
A retired Keene police officer who shot a man during a confrontation in 1998 said he questioned himself after the shooting but quickly came to terms with what he did.
Carl Patten Jr., 53, of Troy agreed to speak with The Sentinel about the shooting to offer insight on what an officer goes through when he pulls the trigger.
On Tuesday, a Keene officer shot and killed 39-year-old Charles E. “Chuck” Turcotte during what authorities have described as a hostage situation and standoff. Turcotte was allegedly holding a knife to his ex-girlfriend’s throat when the officer fired a bullet into his head.
Patten shot David A. Ward, then 30, after Ward pulled a gun on him and another officer outside a city convenience store in September 1998. Ward, who was wanted for parole violations, aimed his gun at Patten and squeezed the trigger, but it misfired.
Patten returned fire, hitting Ward multiple times in his shoulder and legs.
When Patten saw Ward point a handgun at him, he said, he had a split-second to react.
“It comes down to training and instinct,” said Patten, who had 17 years of police experience when the shooting occurred. “You’ve got to make that decision and you can’t think about it for five minutes. You’ve got to do it now.”
Ward survived the shooting. He was eventually convicted of an array of charges and sent to prison.
After the shooting, Patten handed his gun, which had become evidence, over to a supervisor. Then he was interviewed by members of the state Attorney General’s Office.
“They want to know the facts about what happened,” he said. “The interview is long, an hour or two, and there could also be follow-up interviews. They also go out and interview everyone else who was involved so they can corroborate your story.”
Patten was placed on administrative leave for about two months. An avid outdoorsman, he said he spent the time hunting deer and pheasant. He also thought about the shooting.
“Everybody deals with it differently,” he said. “You run the scenario through your mind. You ask yourself if you could have done something differently.”
He returned to work after being cleared by a mental health counselor and the Attorney General’s Office, which determined that he was justified in using lethal force.
Under state law, officers may use deadly force if they are defending themselves or another person from what they reasonably believe is a lethal threat.
“Once you understand that you did what you had to do, what you were supposed to do, you move on,” he said. “You’ve taken an oath to protect lives and the safety of others. It’s your duty. It’s your obligation.”
Patten retired in 2004.
When N.H. State Police Trooper David Hinkell shot and killed Sasha A. Yuksel, 35, during a July 2006 traffic stop, Patten said he offered his support. Hinkell was being attacked by Yuksel and had tried to use his Taser and pepper spray before he shot the man.
Patten also contacted Swanzey police Cpl. Robert Eccleston after he shot Jeffrey E. Richardson, 24, while he was being dragged by Richardson’s car last July.
Eccleston and Hinkell did not return messages from The Sentinel seeking comment.
Patten said he would like to speak with the Keene police officer involved in the most recent shooting. The Attorney General’s Office is withholding the officer’s name until the preliminary investigation is released Monday.
“Most guys go through their whole career and don’t pull the trigger,” Patten said. “It’s an unfortunate thing when you have to do that, but I guess it happens every day across the country.”