ROCHESTER — Southcoast Health President Keith A. Hovan, who faces a felony charge for allegedly possessing illegal firearm ammunition, penned an impassioned plea for sensible gun policies after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“Weapons like those used in Newtown and in so many other killing sprees have no purpose but to murder men, women and children,” he wrote, while also acknowledging that law-abiding citizens have a right to legitimate firearms.  

Hovan questioned what a weapon like the one used in the Sandy Hook shooting (which included an AR-15 rifle) was doing in a suburban community, but according to Rochester Police Sgt. Nathan Valente, there were multiple AR-15 rifles, at least one AR-10 rifle and a SCAR rifle inside Hovan’s gun room, in addition to pistols. A police report also listed “long guns” and “shotguns.” 

“Weapons that hold 30, 50 or 100 rounds?” Hovan wrote. “All you really need to know is this: One of the weapons that killed the children in Sandy Hook School is described as a semi-automatic version of a military grade weapon similar to those our troops carry in combat in Afghanistan. What is a weapon like that doing in suburban Connecticut or in any of our communities?”

According to police, Hovan had in his possession rounds ranging from 12 to 100 per magazine or drum for the illegal ones; most were 30 rounds or fewer. A 100-round capacity magazine they found is noted in the police report as being “for law enforcement only.”

Hovan was working as president and CEO of Southcoast Health Systems when he wrote the guest opinion piece, which was published in media outlets across the country. But he noted that he had served as a senior executive at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut, where wounded children and teachers were taken after the Newtown shooting.

Hovan was charged with the ammunition offense following a domestic assault and battery arrest on Saturday. The domestic violence charge is a misdemeanor offense, but if convicted of the illegal ammunition charge, he could face a fine or imprisonment. 

Reports state that officers responded to Hovan’s Rochester home late Saturday night after his daughter called 911 to report an alleged domestic assault involving Hovan and his wife. An officer who responded to the home noted Hovan was “covered in a liquid” that smelled like alcohol. The officer wrote that Hovan exited the front door stating “something along the lines of, ‘It was me, I did it, my arm hit her in the face.’”

One officer also reported seeing cuts with blood on Hovan’s forearm.

After entering the home, an officer attended to Hovan’s wife, spotting droplets of blood on clothing and a red mark on her face that later became a bruise. She told police an argument started over a television show, but became physical when she started writing in a journal, which Hovan then tried to grab, police reports state.

Hovan returned to his home hours after his arrest to give police access to his gun room. Police removed about 43 firearms and the ammunition from the home as standard protocol following a domestic incident. According to police, Hovan said he is a collector of firearms and that some are just for display. 

Hovan said the matter was unfortunate and “apologized for losing his temper,” police said. He also reportedly stated that his daughter “did the right thing for calling the police” and that he was proud of her.

Hovan told police he had about 5,000 rounds of ammunition, but an actual count determined there were roughly 19,500 rounds, police said.

Raymond Raposa, treasurer for the Dartmouth-based Copicut Rifle Association and a certified NRA range safety officer, said he shoots about 3,000 rounds per year to practice for competition, and that some people like to have enough ammunition to last about three years in case there is a shortage. 

He said the estimate for Hovan’s ammunition might be excessive for one person, but that as a gun owner he is not shocked or surprised. He said typically gun owners use high capacity rounds for fun to shoot at the rifle range, or to collect due to their high value if they were made before the ban took effect.

Jim Wallace, executive director of Gun Owners Action League, said the average person might think, “oh my god,” to that number, but for gun owners it is not out of the realm. 

On the amount of guns Hovan had, which was reported to be 43, Raposa said that is not unheard of and that he has met people who have up to 100 firearms. He said some guns can be old collectibles and seen as a big investment, given their value.

Jason Guida, a criminal defense attorney who specializes in firearms law, said if Hovan is convicted of possessing the illegal magazines, then he could face a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment that could range from one year to 10 years. Because it is a felony, Hovan would be precluded from carrying firearms both at the state and federal level, the attorney said.

Guida and Wallace said the gun laws in Massachusetts can be very complicated, with Guida noting that determining whether the magazine is “pre- or post-ban,” and thus legal or illegal, can be difficult, as magazines are not always marked. 

Valente said there was no evidence that Hovan was being an irresponsible gun owner and that as a collector Hovan “clearly enjoyed” his firearms. Everything was secure and stored properly, the sergeant said, but there was the issue of the alleged 83 non-compliant magazines.

No comment from Southcoast Health’s Board of Trustees

After issuing a statement on Tuesday regarding Hovan’s arrest, the Board of Trustees of Southcoast Health did not have anything new to say as of Wednesday evening, said Molly Horan, a spokesperson from a public relations firm that is representing Southcoast Health on the matter.

The Board of Trustees is made up of 17 members including Hovan: Dr. Salman Bashir, Louis A. Cabral, James J. Coogan, Dr. Ilana Feinerman, Dennis J. Fusco, Donald G. Giumetti, Christopher M. Hodgson, Helena DaSilva Hughes, Elizabeth Huidekoper, Heidi Kostin, W. Hugh M. Morton, Jonathan Rounds, Jason Rua, Dr. Jay Schachne, Carmen Sylvester, and Dr. James Witkowski. 

The Light tried to reach the members on Wednesday but could not make contact with all and did not hear back from many. 

Hughes, the executive director of the Immigrants’ Assistance Center, said by phone that she had no comment and that the earlier statement from the trustees says “everything” about how they feel on the issue. She said, “it’s a very personal matter … we respect his privacy.” 

Kostin, an attorney, told The Light by email to inquire with a media representative for Southcoast Health. 

Morton said by phone that he had nothing to say. 

CORRECTION: This story was amended to note the actual count of ammunition inside Keith Hovan’s home, according to police. On Nov. 13, 2021, Rochester Police corrected an earlier estimate that was higher.

Email Anastasia Lennon at alennon@newbedfordlight.org.

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