By PHILLIP BANTZ
The man accused of leading police on a high-speed chase Friday that involved gunshots being fired at his pickup and left a bus passenger critically injured was arraigned later the same day while wearing a hospital gown.
The top of his head marked with lacerations, Peter J. Simon, 39, learned in Keene District Court about the charges he faces so far: two counts of reckless conduct and one count each of resisting arrest and disobeying police.
Judge Edward J. Burke set Simon’s bail at $100,000 after hearing a rundown of his criminal history, which spans from Arizona to Montana and includes convictions for battery on police officers, fleeing police, assault and being a fugitive from justice, according to Keene police Lt. Peter S. Thomas.
Simon’s last known address is the Phoenix House Brattleboro Center. But Simon is no longer a resident of the substance abuse treatment center, according to Richard Turner, vice president of Phoenix Houses of New England.
Citing privacy laws, Turner declined to disclose details about Simon’s time at Phoenix House or where he went after he left.
Simon did not have an attorney during the arraignment and appeared disoriented in court. He asked if he could make a phone call and, later, if he could press charges against the N.H. State Police trooper who fired shots at the pickup he was driving during the chase.
“So because I didn’t stop you guys shot at me,” he said, “and then I ran into somebody else.”
Simon had just arrived at the arraignment from Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene, where he was taken after the crash.
Medical staff cleared Simon to leave the hospital and attend the arraignment. He was taken to the Cheshire County jail in Westmoreland after the hearing.
Police began chasing after a black Dodge Ram pickup Simon was driving after other drivers spotted him heading the wrong way on Route 12 and driving over curbs and medians, according to Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed.
The pickup also rammed the back of a red car on Route 12, Thomas said. Police want to speak with the driver of that car as part of their criminal investigation against Simon.
The pickup eventually turned into the Monadnock Marketplace during the chase and began tearing around the parking lot of the nearby N.H. State Police Troop C barracks, police said. The pickup then headed into the shopping center and made a U-turn, according to witnesses.
Trooper Kelly Wardner stopped her cruiser near the middle of the road at the exit of the shopping center, stepped out of the vehicle and fired several shots at the driver’s side of the pickup as it passed her, according to court documents Burke read during Simon’s arraignment.
Some of the shots hit the pickup, which exited the shopping center, made a left turn toward the Winchester Street-Route 101 roundabout and then veered from the eastbound lane into the westbound lane, police said.
Michael Baker, a driver for Thomas Transportation, was driving a bus in the westbound lane when he saw the pickup coming toward him and tried to avoid a collision, according to the transportation company’s owner, Ed Thomas.
“It was my understanding that the pickup truck was intentionally trying to hit him,” Ed Thomas said.
Ed Heywood, who was recently hired by the transportation company, was sitting in the passenger seat of the bus, Ed Thomas said. He said Baker was driving Heywood to the Division of Motor Vehicles office, which is near the state police barracks, so Heywood could pick up his commercial driver’s license.
Baker and Heywood were the only people in the 33-passenger bus when the pickup collided with it head-on.
The front passenger side of the pickup smashed into the front passenger side of the bus, spraying debris from both vehicles over the road.
While Baker suffered minor injuries in the crash, Heywood was critically injured and had to be flown by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. His condition was not available.
Simon allegedly exited the pickup after the collision, attempted to carjack a passing vehicle — police also want to speak with this driver — and then ran across a field to a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant on Key Road.
Employees at the restaurant said a bloody Simon asked if someone would kill him and vaulted the counter before police arrived. They said Simon ripped the barbs from a trooper’s Taser out of his back and was Tasered again in the neck before he was arrested.
Wardner remained on active duty after the shooting — she pulled the trigger because she believed the pickup Simon was driving was going to injure or kill her or someone else, according to Heed.
Under state law, officers may use deadly force in defense of themselves or others who they believe are in danger of being seriously injured or killed. Officers may also use lethal force if they are trying to stop a person who is committing a felony that involves violence, a deadly weapon or poses a serious danger to others.
A passer-by during the shooting, Clay Bradley, 45, of Marlow, said he had to “hit the deck” because he thought one of the bullets from Wardner’s gun was going to strike him. He said Wardner fired three shots at the pickup.
Bradley also said he did not believe the pickup was going to hit Wardner or anyone else in the vicinity when Wardner opened fire.
The N.H. State Police Major Crimes Unit in Concord continues to investigate the shooting. Capt. Mark J. Myrdek, who is involved with the investigation, declined comment.
“We’re still trying to make sure we get all the facts together,” he said.