January 06, 2021DALTON — On Dec. 23, the town of Dalton and the surrounding area was alerted to an incident that took place at approximately nine p.m. Sirens were heard blaring from miles away and scanners went from muddled fuzz to constant communication. As details unfolded, neighbors reached out to neighbors to make sure everyone involved or living in close proximity to the scene was safe.
Within mere hours, we learned that New Hampshire State Trooper Matthew Merrill was shot on scene and was transported to the closest hospital. Currently, Merrill is in stable condition.
According to reports from NH Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Merrill stopped a car on Bridge Hill Road in Dalton. Moments after, gunfire was exchanged between Merrill and the only occupant in the vehicle.
Merrill alerted fellow law enforcement that he had been shot. Upon arrival, responding officers found 45 year old Mark Clermont of Whitefield deceased. Clermont was armed with a handgun and a rifle. Fortunately, no other individuals were injured at the scene and there is no threat to the general public.
Autopsy results revealed that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. Currently, the specific circumstances surrounding this incident remain actively under investigation.
Merrill has been a police officer for roughly 11 years and joined the New Hampshire State Police in 2012. He served the Town of Grantham as an officer for four years beginning in 2008. The community has rallied around Merrill and has so far raised more than $150,000 for his family.
Clermont was no stranger to local law enforcement as calls regarding issues with the Whitefield resident date back to May of 2020. A Whitefield call log shows that police responded to a home with for a domestic incident involving Clermont, but no further details were recorded.
During one call last spring, police responded to the Whitefield residence Clermont had been residing in after someone reported a disturbance involving a silver Chrysler. Clermont proceeded to scream at the responding officer and told him that he 'was going to get in his spaceship and blow up his cruiser later'. When police asked if he had a weapon, Clermont reportedly said "You want to find out?" Clermont continued to yell about the satellites being hacked and stated that people were watching him. Clermont was also wearing a bullet proof vest. It was relayed to police that Clermont has a long drug history and that his mental state was 'extreme.' The owner of the home relayed to police that she was scared for officers and feared someone would die if he wasn't dealt with.
On that same day, Clermont, who did not have a license took keys to the vehicle owned by the homeowner and left before anyone could stop him. On that same day a Whitefield resident was threatened by Clermont at a gas station in Whitefield. Clermont told the resident that he was going to kill him and take his land. The encounter was witnessed by a bystander.
Clermont's neighbors had called police as well stating that Clermont gets intoxicated in the middle of the night and fires off his gun.
A former friend of Clermont's relayed that he would drive around late at night in search of spaceships while high on methamphetamine. That same friend relayed to police that if nothing was done, someone could end up getting hurt or killed.
Leading up to the incident on Dec. 23 was an incident that took place at the Dollar General just a few weeks prior. Clermont apparently told the cashier that she better "pray to God" that he did not come back. According to the report, he then pointed at the light and walked out.
Residents were surprised to learn that Clermont was a graduate of UNH, where he earned a degree in Chemical Engineering. He was employed at Pfizer for many years.
Whitefield Police Chief Ed Samson relayed that the Department was aware and informed of Clermont's behaviors. A known drug user, Clermont's mental health declined rapidly.
"There aren't a lot of options in this area for those with mental illness," Samson commented. "It's even worse right now with everything going on, people are waiting days for a bed to open up."
Any person who feels that someone they live with or know is escalating, does have the right to file a complaint and with cause have them hospitalized involuntarily. This is one way to protect the person as well as members of the community.
Currently, there is no list or data base in New Hampshire that names potential threats from those who could pose a danger to society.
Samson said, "We do our best to work with surrounding agencies to keep everyone safe."