Man Who Threatened Mass Shooting to Remain in Jail


Christopher Stewart, right, sits in Belknap Superior Court Wednesday for a probable cause hearing on a charge of threatening a mass shooting at UNH, while his attorney, Erin Ferry, center, addresses the court. Shown standing at left is Assistant County Attorney Whitney Skinner. (Jon Decker/The Laconia Daily Sun photo)

Michael Mortenson, Laconia Daily Sun

A Manchester man charged with threatening to carry out a mass shooting at the University of New Hampshire will remain in custody in Belknap County jail, a judge has ruled.

Christopher S. Stewart, 33, of Manchester, appeared in Belknap Superior Court for a probable cause hearing Wednesday on a felony-level charge of criminal threatening for allegedly texting the threat to a mental health counselor in Laconia. Stewart also faces a misdemeanor charge of breach of bail.

Court records do not specify whether Stewart was thinking of carrying out the threat at the main UNH campus in Durham or at its branch in Manchester.

Stewart sent a text Sept. 7 to a case worker at the Lakes Region Mental Health Center in Laconia stating that the “shooting was the right thing to do even if it meant going to jail,” the affidavit states.

Laconia police were subsequently notified by the case worker about the communication from Stewart, according to the affidavit.

After obtaining an involuntary emergency admission arrest warrant, Manchester police took Stewart into custody at his Manchester apartment. In the apartment they found an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle along with two loaded magazines.

The magazines for these kinds of weapons typically hold 30 rounds of ammunition.

Christopher Stewart sits in Belknap Superior Court for a probable cause hearing Wednesday. (Jon Decker/The Laconia Daily Sun photo)

Judge Elizabeth Leonard found probable cause for the charges against Stewart and ordered that he remain in preventive detention in the Belknap County Corrections facility, where he has been held since his arrest Sept. 13.

At the outset of Wednesday’s hearing, Stewart’s attorney, public defender Erin Ferry, requested that the record of the hearing be sealed. Ferry made the request, she said, because of the nature of the charges against her client and also because at least one witness at the hearing was expected to testify about “personal matters.”

Leonard did agree to close the hearing to the general public out of what the judge called “an abundance of caution,” given the likelihood that personal matters about Stewart might be revealed. After 25 minutes, the judge unsealed the entire record of the hearing and reopened the courtroom.

A Laconia police officer was the only witness who testified during the hearing.

In requesting the hearing, Stewart’s attorney said his family was prepared to take care of him if he were released and that he would have no access to firearms.

As the hearing got underway Stewart, dressed in a drab green jumpsuit, sat next to his attorney, at times sobbing.

According to the affidavit, Stewart told his case worker that he was kicked out of his class at UNH and that he was going back to his class at 6 p.m. on the night of Sept. 7 “to set the record straight.”

Stewart is facing a breach of bail charge because at the time of his arrest, he was free on bail on another charge, with one of the conditions being that he could not possess any firearms.

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