By PHILLIP BANTZ
The Keene Sentinel: July 31, 2009
WINCHESTER — Police in this town had their hands full Thursday night when they chased a convicted sex offender, scuffled with a horse owner and dealt with a drunken man firing a rifle.
The series of incidents kicked off at about 10 p.m., when police received simultaneous calls for a domestic disturbance and a high-speed police pursuit in Massachusetts heading toward Winchester, Police Chief Gary A. Phillips said.
After handling the domestic disturbance at 540 Warwick Road, Winchester police Officer Nathan Jette stopped his patrol car, blue lights activated, on the side of the road and waited for the white Ford Explorer that Bay State authorities were chasing.
Earlier in the night, police in Orange, Mass., had spotted the Explorer and recognized its driver, Joseph W. Finn, 47, of Gardner, Mass., who was wanted on warrants charging him with failing to register as a sex offender and driving with a suspended license.
When Jette saw the Explorer speeding down Warwick Road, he laid a spike strip in its path, puncturing all four of the SUV’s tires as it drove past him, Phillips said.
Jette stepped back into his cruiser and began chasing after the Explorer, which he found ditched near a horse field at 580 Warwick Road. The SUV had crashed into a fence, and the driver was gone, Phillips said.
As police searched for Finn in the field, the property owner, Daniel J. Black, 43, became concerned about his horses escaping through the damaged fence and began arguing with the officers, Phillips said.
“He kept trying to get at his fence and badgering the officers. There was quite a bit of chaos at the time,” he said. “The horses were not going to escape. It wasn’t an issue. We also didn’t want anyone getting into the field and contaminating the suspect’s tracks.”
The Keene Police Department’s police dog unit arrived and helped Winchester officers track down Finn, who was found hiding behind trees in a wood line near the field about a third of a mile from the ditched SUV, Phillips said.
While police were arresting Finn, Black began fighting with other officers near the damaged section of fence, Phillips said. He was taken to the ground and arrested on charges of interfering with law enforcement and resisting arrest.
The officers had just finished handcuffing Black when they heard gunshots coming from the residence at 540 Warwick Road, where they’d investigated a domestic disturbance less than an hour earlier, Phillips said.
They released Black to his son and rushed over to the residence where they’d heard the gunshots and found a “highly intoxicated” Timothy Merrifield, 46, and determined he was firing a rifle into the air, Phillips said.
Merrifield was taken into protective custody and driven to the Cheshire County jail in Westmoreland to sober up. He was not charged with a crime.
Black, meanwhile, will be picked up after police secure warrants for his arrest on the charges of interfering and resisting, Phillips said.
“We just didn’t have enough manpower to arrest him at the time” of the incident, Phillips said.
Finn was charged in New Hampshire with disobeying police, driving with a suspended license, conduct after a crash and marijuana possession — a small bag of marijuana was found in the Explorer, Phillips said.
Finn was held overnight at the jail for lack of $2,500 bail and was scheduled to be arraigned today in Keene District Court.