Police in Weare shoot, kill man during drug sting operation

Last modified: 8/16/2013 3:32:47 PM
A police shootout that erupted late Wednesday evening at a shopping center in Weare left the suspect in an undercover drug bust dead after he tried to flee, authorities said yesterday.

The incident took place shortly after 10 p.m. outside the Dunkin’ Donuts in Lanctot’s Plaza, along Route 114. According to a statement from the attorney general’s office, several Weare police officers and two confidential informants had been present at the plaza, taking part in a drug sting with the man, a suspected heroin dealer.

The suspect, who died after being taken to a Manchester hospital, has not been identified. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

In an interview with WMUR, Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said the man tried to flee after officers told him to stop. Two officers then shot and wounded him as he sped off in his vehicle, which the Union Leader, citing Morrell, described as a green Acura. The Acura and two unmarked police cars – a gray Ford Taurus and a Dodge Durango, according to the Union Leader – made it about a hundred yards southeast of the plaza before crashing near an ice cream stand along Route 114. No officers or other people were injured.

Morrell would not release details of the drug investigation or how long it had been ongoing. Nor would she identify which officers had fired their weapons, or how many shots had been fired.

The plaza was blocked off with crime tape early yesterday morning, according to shop owners. It reopened, except for the Dunkin’ Donuts, about 8 a.m., they said.

Dave and Katherine Cass, owners of Dirty Outdoors, a sporting goods shop in the center, said they had seen investigators searching the grass outside the Dunkin’ Donuts and two vehicles, a purple Ford pickup and an SUV, towed from the scene before 9 a.m.

Though it’s not clear where the suspect was from, the Casses said they have noticed drug busts occurring regularly in the area, given its accessibility to Manchester, Keene and Nashua – cities where drug use is more prevalent.

Weare’s interim administrative police chief, Art Walker, was unavailable yesterday for comment, and a sergeant did not return a voice message.

Heroin use in general has been escalating in New Hampshire, according to police and state officials, as have fatal overdoses from the drug, which soared to 38 last year – more than from any other controlled substance. Experts point to heroin’s relative affordability and its growing potency as reasons in part for the rise.

Addiction levels are also increasing in rural areas, according to Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, who monitors drug use and enforcement efforts throughout the state.

Hilliard said the use of confidential informants, often minor drug offenders themselves, is a common practice. Such a tactic helps authorities root out dealers and is a critical tool in combating the growing drug problem, he said.

But as addiction rises, so typically does violence, Hilliard noted.

“The level of addiction is worse, and for many of these heroin and/or other drug users, their only mission is getting their next high,” he said.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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