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High-speed pursuit prior to Weare fatal crash spanned two towns; questions remain

Last modified: 7/19/2015 1:09:51 AM
A deadly high-speed pursuit initiated by a New Boston police officer in the early morning hours of July 3 occurred mostly in Weare and reached speeds close to 90 mph, calling into question whether the police department’s high-speed chase policy was followed.

The New Boston Police Department’s pursuit policy, obtained by the Monitor, says that “high risk pursuit” is only justified when the officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that “the violator has committed or has attempted to commit a serious felony involving crimes against persons” or “the officer has a reasonable basis to believe that death or serious bodily injury will result if the violator is not apprehended.”

Just after midnight July 3, Officer Stephen Case attempted to stop a 1997 GMC pickup carrying three people because its taillights were out. Case was driving on Route 114 when he saw the truck pull out of Milwaukee Ironworks in New Boston and he attempted to pull it over. The truck did not stop and started speeding away on 114 toward the Weare town line, reaching speeds faster than 85 mph, according to initial police reports and people with knowledge of the accident.

Milwaukee Ironworks is located about 500 feet from the Weare town line, but Case continued the pursuit nearly 2 miles into Weare. His cruiser reached speeds of up to 78 mph, sources said.

Department policy discourages police pursuits from crossing town lines and states officers “will not pursue longer than two miles into another jurisdiction,” unless they are in contact with the police chief or other commanding officer.

The violent crash threw all three young men from the vehicle, killing Trevor Gonyer, 17, of Dunbarton.

Two weeks after the crash, state police have released little information, citing an ongoing investigation, and have refused to identity the three people in the car, including Gonyer, who was laid to rest last week. All other questions related to the crash have gone unanswered.

State police have referred further questions to the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, New Boston police Chief James Brace referred questions to state police.

Case reported that he eventually lost sight of the truck during the pursuit, and thinking it was gone, turned around to drive back toward New Boston. While turning around, his headlights reflected off the truck, which had crashed on the southbound side of the road, sources said.

The New Boston Police Department’s policy stipulates that officers must maintain radio contact constantly and must coherently and concisely broadcast the location, direction and speed of the pursuit and immediately notify dispatch if the pursuit is terminated.

The policy states, “pursuit is unacceptable when the pursuit itself endangers life more than the escape of the person being pursued,” according to a copy obtained by the Monitor.

Brace did not provide a copy of the department’s pursuit policy to the Monitor. The newspaper has filed a right-to-know request for the department’s policy and several records related to the crash, including written reports and audio recordings.

It’s unclear to what extent the New Boston police response to the pursuit is factoring into the investigation, since all law enforcement agencies have refused comment.

On Wednesday, First Assistant County Attorney Maureen O’Neil said her office did not yet have a case file from state police, and she declined to release any more information.

“I’m not willing to comment further on it,” O’Neil said when asked whether she was aware of other cases where authorities have withheld crash victims’ names for weeks.

O’Neil did not return a phone call for comment Thursday.

Last week, the Monitor filed a right-to-know request with state police, seeking a limited release of information, specifically the names of the occupants. Police officials denied that request Wednesday, citing the ongoing crash investigation.

“Because the investigation is ongoing, the Division does not have any government records in its agency’s files that would be responsive to your request,” state police Lt. Matt Shapiro wrote, adding that when the investigation is complete, officials at the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office would need to determine whether criminal charges would be brought forward.

The two other people in the truck the night of the crash suffered critical injuries. Gonyer was not the driver, friends said.

“It could involve very serious charges,” Shapiro said in a brief follow-up interview about the crash.

It is unusual for state police to withhold the identity of individuals involved in a crash for more than a few days.

Four other fatal vehicle crashes have occurred in New Hampshire in the two weeks since the July 3 Weare crash; in all other cases, the drivers of the vehicles and victims were named by state police or county attorneys.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen. Staff writers Susan Doucet, Jeremy Blackman and Jonathan Van Fleet contributed to this report.)


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