Frayed nerves in Concord – Shootings are happening everywhere, including here

Karen and Jay Degreenia of Boscawen, above, and Melissa Kleasby, below, spoke about the incident this past weekend.

Karen and Jay Degreenia of Boscawen, above, and Melissa Kleasby, below, spoke about the incident this past weekend. RAY DUCKLER / Monitor staff

Melissa Kleasby

Melissa Kleasby sleone—

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 11-22-2023 1:43 PM

Karen Smith of Bow got stuck in traffic near the entrance to the New Hampshire State Hospital late Friday afternoon.

Not stop-and-go traffic. Parking lot traffic. She saw flashing lights in the distance and police cars racing past her, moving at least twice the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour, counting 14 law enforcement vehicles turning into the sprawling complex.

Her mind raced, just like those police cars, some of which were State Troopers. A patient leaving the secure psychiatric center without permission? No. Recent events, all over the country, most recently in nearby Lewiston, Maine, told her something different.

“I was almost even with the State Hospital entrance,” Smith said Sunday morning during breakfast downtown at Revelstoke.

“There were a lot of law enforcement cars. I was literally on the phone with my husband. As I sat there, I couldn’t believe it. It’s the first thing you think about now when you see that kind of law enforcement presence. I knew it must have been an active shooter situation, just in my thoughts, without knowing immediately.”

We all know by now that she was right. A transient man named John Madore, once homeless on the Seacoast before recently moving to Concord, walked into the State Hospital Friday afternoon and, authorities said at a press conference Saturday, shot and killed unarmed security guard Bradley Haas, 63, a veteran working with the military police who once served as the Franklin police chief.

Madore allegedly killed Haas while he was delayed in some fashion at a metal director, before a yet-to-be named State Trooper – part of the two-man security force employed at the hospital – shot and killed Madore, 33.

At the press conference Saturday, Attorney General John Formella said the alleged killer “did not get past the metal detectors, so he was engaged (immediately).” Others were in the lobby at the time.

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Autopsy results said both men were hit by multiple gunshots.

It also appears Madore was a patient at New Hampshire Hospital at some point in 2016 following a second-degree assault charge.

A U-Haul van was found running in the hospital parking lot, police said, containing an AR-15-style weapon, a tactical vest and ammunition. And while officials could not confirm Saturday that the vehicle had been rented by Madore, it suggests the possibility that he had plans to kill elsewhere.

As for the State Trooper’s quick thinking, that most likely saved lives.

The names of towns like Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; and most recently, Lewiston, Maine, have been burned into the American psyche. Concord, fortunately, will not be remembered like those other places. But it could have had it not been for the quick response.

So now, as in so many areas of the country for more than two decades, we are left to wonder how safe we really are.

As is often the case, the discussion moved into mental health and access to guns, part of our national debate that is regularly marked by vociferous, sometimes hate-filled dialogue.

“I think it goes back to the fact that we have so many mentally ill walking around who haven’t been able to get treatment or get help,” Smith said. “And they can somehow get access to guns and it puts us all at risk.”

This is a gray area, of course. Mental illness does not always equate to violence. Just as homelessness does not directly connect to mental illness in all cases.

Homeless people worry about what everyone worries about. Melissa Kleasby sat downtown this past Friday night, across the street from the Merrimack County Savings Bank, its sign reading 10:15 p.m., 60 degrees.

Homeless, she was putting up her tent around the time of the shooting when she saw and heard a line of police cars zipping past her on I-93.

“People are just angry at the world,” said Kleasby. “Rents are higher, food’s higher. They think their only outlet is to maybe pick up a gun and hurt people. That’s scary.”

Kleasby said she worries about her son’s safety every day, and did so before the events of Friday. She said shooting deaths are part of life, like never before.

Sunday morning, Karen and Jay Degreenia of Boscawen sipped coffee at Revelstoke. They have grandchildren in Penacook, one in grade school, the other in high school.

“I worry for them all the time, even when they go to a place like the trampoline park,” Karen said. “Just going to a regular park, you’re always kind of hyper-aware of what is going on around you. It’s not as carefree as it used to be.”

Smith sat nearby, nearly done with her breakfast. She has a son in Portland, Maine, 30 miles from Lewiston. She said he stayed home, hunkered down, for two days after the shootings. She said that incident hit home.

This one hit closer.

“I like to say I was shocked, and I was not shocked, but so anxious,” Smith said. “I got nervous. I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s here.’ It’s like it can literally be anywhere.”