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AG justifies non-fatal shooting of suspect

Three Manchester police officers were justified in firing their weapons at a driver who would not obey their orders to stop and tried to run them down with his vehicle, New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster said yesterday.

The pursuit of 37-year-old Christopher Varagianis of Pembroke began about 6 p.m. June 3 with a report of a man unconscious in a vehicle in a parking lot.

When two officers on bicycles arrived, the man drove off and refused their orders to pull over.

Other officers joined the chase and two police vehicles finally cornered the driver of the Jeep Commander in a parking lot on Merrimack Street. One police car blocked the exit to the parking lot while another drove toward Varagianis, who rammed his car into the front of the police car driven by Det. Mike Lavallee, the attorney general’s report said.

Sgt. Joe Mucci and Det. Mike Bergeron approached the Jeep on foot and ordered Varagianis to get out of the vehicle, which he refused to do. Mucci fired at the Jeep’s tires, deflating one, according to the report. Varagianis then maneuvered his vehicle around the police car at which time Lavallee fired three times at the vehicle – aiming low because three was an apartment building beyond the Jeep.

Varagianis continued to drive onto Merrimack Street until other police officers converged on the Jeep.

Despite sustaining two gunshot wounds to the leg, Varagianis refused to get out of the Jeep and had to be dragged out of the vehicle. The police used a stun gun on Varagianis to get him to stop struggling so they could handcuff him, the police said.

The police found alcohol and a syringe in the front compartment of his vehicle.

Foster concluded that Varagianis used his car as a deadly weapon when he gunned it toward officers who were outside their own vehicles several times. The three officers who fired their weapons during the incident did so to protect themselves or another officer, and were justified in their use of deadly force, the reports said.

Varagianis is being held on $750,000 bond on charges that include assault and reckless conduct.

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