Police: Fear of losing guns led Granville man to fire at police — (The Post Star)

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The Post Star

July 01, 2013 8:45 pm

DON LEHMAN – dlehman@poststar.com

GRANVILLE — Police said a fear he was going to be arrested and police were going to confiscate his guns apparently prompted a Granville man to fire three rifle shots at police cars late Friday.

But officers said there appears to be no connection between Friday’s shooting and the violent death last month of a fellow military veteran from Granville.

Jonathan P. Hyatt, 26, died late Friday or early Saturday of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head from a .308-caliber rifle he had been using to fire at police from inside the 7 Irving Ave. home of his grandmother, officials said.

Hyatt was a veteran of the U.S. Army who spent 14 months in Iraq. He had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder because of a head injury sustained during combat.

Hyatt’s death follows a June 16 incident in nearby western Vermont, where Granville resident Aaron Allen was shot and killed by the boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend as Allen stabbed her with a knife.

Granville Police Chief Ernie Bassett said the two incidents appear to be unconnected, other than the fact both men were military veterans who had struggled to re-acclimate to society after their return from the Middle East.

Granville Police Sgt. Dave Williams said Hyatt had argued with his girlfriend the day before, and his brother had intervened when the dispute grew physical. Police had been contacted, and Hyatt was apparently worried he was going to be arrested and his guns would be confiscated.

“He kept telling his mother, ‘They aren’t going to take my guns,’” Williams said.

Family members became increasingly concerned about his erratic activity throughout the day Friday, and when Hyatt’s mother went to his room and found him clutching a rifle, she left the home, then called police at about 10 p.m.

Granville Police Patrolman Thomas Zovistoski arrived and was interviewing Hyatt’s mother and a child at the home when a shot was fired from an attic window, hitting the patrol car of Patrolman Paul Zinn as he arrived on the scene. The car’s engine was hit, and Bassett said a damage estimate was being compiled Monday.

Seconds later, a shot was fired from a different attic window that hit the front windshield of Zovistoski’s car, the bullet ricocheting through the front compartment. Had an officer been in the driver’s seat, he would have been hit, the chief said.

Williams said it was clear based on how Hyatt had set up a shooter’s perch on a chair below an attic window and camouflaged it with cardboard boxes, and where the shots hit the police cars, that he was trying to hit the officers.

“He wanted to kill cops. I’m convinced of it,” he said. “He’s a trained marksman and he had created an area to shoot from in the attic. He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Hyatt, a 2006 Granville High graduate, was the subject of a May 2011 article in The Post-Star as he talked about his problems coming back from the Middle East and trying to get disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a brain injury and PTSD.

He had dealt with alcohol problems and depression that resulted in arrests for car theft and driving while intoxicated after a car crash, incidents about which he talked freely.

“My biggest problem is the claims department at the VA,” he said of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s just a pain.”

But Williams said Hyatt had mental health issues before his deployment and been provided assistance by the VA on a number of occasions. And police had been told he had stopped taking a prescription antidepressant two weeks or so ago.

Hyatt had a criminal record, but Bassett said he did not believe there was a felony conviction that would have barred him from possessing the rifle. Police were investigating whether his mental health history should have precluded him from purchasing the rifle and ammunition.

Police said it appeared both vehicles will be repaired. The car that was hit in the engine did not suffer damage to its engine block.

Bassett said officers may have to “double up” in a patrol car until the vehicles can be repaired or replaced.

Bassett said the Friday night incidents showed the danger that is always present for police.

“It just goes to show you never know what’s going to happen when you respond to these calls,” he said.