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Archive for April, 2010

By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: April 29, 2010

When a car collided with a college student walking in downtown Keene on Sunday evening, a Marlborough police detective had to investigate the incident while N.H. State Police troopers interviewed the victim.

On most evenings, Keene police officers would have handled the accident, which resulted in minor injuries. But they were busy processing a dozen people who were accused of trespassing at the new Cheshire County jail in Keene.

The arrestees – all were charged with trespassing and one was charged additionally with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia – have ties to the Free State Project and one of its offshoot groups, Free Keene.

The Free State Project is an effort to persuade 20,000 people to move to New Hampshire and participate in activism or run for political office. Project members are particularly active in Keene.

The Free Keene website states that the “Trespassive Twelve” circled the jail building several times, attracting the attention of some inmates, and police. “No Trespassing” signs are posted on the property.

Ian “Freeman” Bernard, 29, a Keene resident who was among the protesters, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the group was rallying for N.H. Free Press publisher Russell Kanning. Kanning is jailed for nonpayment of child support.

Bernard added that he and the other protesters also wanted to “raise the spirits of other men and women in prison there.”

The gathering drew a rather large police response: the Keene Police Department sent an entire shift, four officers and a supervisor, to the jail. Marlborough police sent Detective Steven E. LaMears. Swanzey police sent an officer. The N.H. State Police sent two troopers. Finally, three corrections officers from the jail joined the group.

Additional state troopers were called to cover the city of Keene while city officers dealt with the protesters, who were eventually arrested, processed at the Keene Police Department and ordered to appear in court at a later date.

The protest consumed significant police resources, creating a ripple effect in some area towns with limited resources, LaMears said.

“These smaller towns require state police coverage, so who’s going to cover them?” he said.

While Keene police officers were processing the 12 arrestees at the police department, a 19-year-old college student, Brittney Frank, was crossing Main Street in Keene when a car hit her, LaMears said.

Because city police had their hands full booking the protesters, LaMears was called back to Keene to investigate the collision while state police troopers interviewed Frank at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene, where she was treated for a leg injury.

The driver of the vehicle that hit Frank, Almut Yakovleff, 56, of Alstead, told LaMears she was headed north on Main Street in her 1997 Honda Civic when the college student stepped in front of her car and entered a crosswalk, LaMears said.

It was nighttime, Frank was wearing dark clothing and Yakovleff said she didn’t see her until it was too late to stop the car, according to LaMears.

He has closed the crash investigation and will not be filing any charges or traffic citations against Yakovleff.

After he was done investigating the collision in Keene, LaMears tried to catch up on a logjam of other calls that were delayed while he was dealing with the situation at the jail, he said.

But before LaMears could make a dent in the backlog, he was sent to another call that ended in a drunken driving arrest that dragged on for six hours. The driver fell when she stepped out of her car and punctured her chin on a rock, LaMears said. He had to wait in the hospital until the woman was treated for her injuries and released.

LaMears said he spent most of his next shift chipping away at all the calls and cases he wasn’t able to address Sunday.

“It’s just a time delay,” he said. “You keep getting a backlog. This time it took a day to get out of that backlog.”

The ripple effect on police resources was an unintended consequence of the protest, Bernard said. And besides, the protesters should have been left alone, he said.

“There was no one being put in danger. There was no victim,” he said. “Even if the cops had to respond, they certainly didn’t have to send the entire squad out.”

The protesters who were arrested will likely request trials in a bid to clog the already-strained court system, Bernard said.

“I don’t expect anyone to take a plea,” he said.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
Published: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Vermont man accused of leading police on a chase that topped 100 mph early Sunday morning appeared in Keene District Court on Monday.

James Davis, 39, of Springfield, Vt., was arraigned on charges of driving with an open container of alcohol, driving while intoxicated, reckless operation, disobeying police and driving after his license was suspended — his second offense.

A Bellows Falls police officer saw a vehicle driving erratically at about 2 a.m. just before the car crossed over the New Arch Bridge spanning the Connecticut River and entered Walpole on Route 12, said village police Sgt. Shane Harris.

The officer notified dispatch, giving Walpole officers a heads-up as the vehicle entered town.

Walpole police Officer Michael P. Milano was patrolling on Route 12 near the Bellows Falls village line when he heard the bulletin.

“The vehicle came around the corner, almost half in my lane, and then we went for a ride,” Milano said.

Milano chased the suspect’s speeding Dodge Stratus from Route 12 to Route 63, where the vehicle spun around on an S-shaped curve and headed back toward Route 12. The chase hit speeds of more than 100 mph at two points along Route 12, Milano said.

Walpole police Officer Raymond Gosetti and an officer from Charlestown who heard about the chase on his radio helped Milano during the incident.

The pursuit went from Walpole to Langdon to Alstead to Surry before entering Keene, where city officers placed two spike mats into the path of the Stratus, puncturing three of the car’s tires.

After the Stratus hit the spikes it went off the road and stopped, but Davis refused to exit the vehicle, according to Walpole police Cpl. Justin R. Sanctuary.

Police used pepper spray on Davis, then he stepped out of the car and was arrested without further incident, Sanctuary said.

Once the Stratus was pulled over, police discovered that a woman in her 30s had been sitting in the car’s passenger seat during the chase. She was not injured during the incident and has not been charged with a crime. Police also found an open can of Budweiser beer in the car, Milano said.

Davis was also wanted on a bench warrant out of Claremont District Court, according to Milano.

A judge set Davis’ bail at $10,000 during Monday’s arraignment. He remained at the Cheshire County jail today.

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