For Immediate Release
June 6, 2019
Concord, NH – Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald and Dover Police Chief William M. Breault announce the conclusion and findings of their investigation into the shooting death of Raymond Raymond Eldridge, II (age 34) in Dover, New Hampshire on December 18, 2018.
At about 10:00 p.m. on December 18, Dover Police officers responded to the Castaways Boathouse, a local restaurant and bar, in response to a complaint of a man brandishing a handgun. When police arrived they saw Raymond Eldridge outside the restaurant lying by a pickup truck. Mr. Eldridge was wounded by a shot to the chest. Despite attempts to assist him, he died from that single gunshot wound. Police officers also encountered friends of Mr. Eldridge's, as well as Justin Sabattis (age 46), the owner of the pickup truck. Mr. Sabattis admitted to shooting Mr. Eldridge, and claimed that he fired a single shot from his legally owned handgun in self-defense as Mr. Eldridge entered Mr. Sabattis's truck and threatened Sabattis's life. Mr. Eldridge also was armed with a handgun that was legal for him to own and possess; police observed that handgun in a holster that Mr. Eldridge was wearing.
Pursuant to the investigation conducted into the circumstances leading up to Mr. Eldridge's death, investigators and prosecutors interviewed all potential eyewitnesses to Mr. Sabattis's shooting of Mr. Eldridge, as well as witnesses to the events that led up to that shooting. Those interviewed included Mr. Sabattis. Investigators and prosecutors also reviewed surveillance footage from the Castaways Boathouse, which captured the interaction between Mr. Sabattis and Mr. Eldridge inside and outside the premises prior to and during the shooting incident.
From that and other evidence, it was established that while inside Castaways Boathouse, Mr. Eldridge and Mr. Sabattis, patrons who were unknown to one-another, got into a verbal altercation, soon after which Mr. Sabattis left the establishment. About ten minutes after Mr. Sabattis left, he returned in his pickup truck, reentered the restaurant, pulled out a handgun – prompting the initial calls to police – and began to argue again with Mr. Eldridge. During that verbal altercation, Mr. Eldridge also pulled out his handgun. Neither man pointed his weapon at the other and no shots were fired.
After a brief verbal exchange inside the Castaways Boathouse, Mr. Sabattis again left, entering his parked pickup truck. Mr. Eldridge and a friend left the establishment within seconds, and Mr. Eldridge went to the passenger side of the truck while his friend went to the driver's side, where Mr. Sabattis sat. Mr. Sabattis claimed that while in his truck Mr. Eldridge entered the truck and threatened to kill him, at which point he fired in self-defense. Mr. Eldridge's friend, who was at the driver's side door when the shooting occurred and was the only eyewitness to the shooting, was unable to refute those claims. The video surveillance evidence likewise does not refute the claims made by Mr. Sabattis as to his encounter with Mr. Eldridge inside his pickup truck.
Under New Hampshire law, a person is legally justified in using deadly force to protect himself only in limited circumstances. As applicable here, the use of deadly force is justified only if Mr. Sabattis reasonably believed that Mr. Eldridge was about to use deadly force against him. A claim of self-defense like Mr. Sabattis's is a complete defense under New Hampshire law, meaning that the State would have to disprove the self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction against Mr. Sabattis for causing Mr. Eldridge's death.
Although Mr. Sabattis's uncontradicted account of the shooting of Mr. Eldridge may support a finding of the justifiable use of deadly force, Mr. Sabattis also lied to investigators about key aspects of his encounter with Mr. Eldridge. In particular, Mr. Sabattis initially claimed that he was never armed with a handgun outside of his truck, and also initially denied that he ever brandished a weapon inside the Castaways Boathouse. These patent credibility issues, however, in themselves do not overcome the State's burden of disproving the self-defense claim, which, again, is not inconsistent with or contradicted by surveillance evidence or the account of the only other living eyewitness to the shooting. Accordingly, based on all of the information gathered from the investigation into Justin Sabattis's fatal shooting of Raymond Eldridge, II, the State cannot disprove Mr. Sabattis's claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, no homicide charges will be filed against Mr. Sabattis for causing Mr. Eldridge's death.
Upon completion of the investigation into Mr. Eldridge's death by the Attorney General's Office, the matter was referred to the Strafford County Attorney's Office for review and consideration of potential nonhomicide charges, and after that review no charges will be brought by that Office.
New Hampshire Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301