Woman escapes Weirs Boulevard stand-off by climbing out rear window of home


LACONIA — Police arrested a city man on Tuesday morning, alleging he assaulted a woman at his home and threatened to kill her if she attempted to leave. 11-15 James Patrick CunninghamJames Cunningham, 60, of 223 Weirs Boulevard, was taken into custody at about 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning, following a two-hour stand-off with police.

Laconia Police Capt. Matt Canfield said that the alleged victim, a woman in her 20s, called 911 at 7:49 a.m. on Tuesday and stated that that she had been assaulted several times during the night. Canfield said she told police that Cunningham had an array of weapons in the home, including knives, a sword and several firearms, including a shotgun.

Cunningham was known to police as a member of a gang, said Canfield.

Cunningham refused to leave the home when police first arrived, resulting in a stand-off situation that involved the activation of the Belknap Regional Special Operations Group. Laconia Fire Department was also on scene. Three nearby homes were evacuated, and traffic on Weirs Boulevard was rerouted onto White Oaks Road.

Canfield said that there was no evidence that the alleged victim was being physically restrained, yet said, "She was afraid to leave" due to threats of physical violence. "He said he'd slit her throat." The woman, in a room in the rear of the home, stayed on the phone with emergency dispatchers while police surveyed the home. When the situation seemed safe to do so, about a half-hour after police arrived, the woman climbed out of a window and into the protection of waiting officers.

While Cunningham was uncooperative with police, Canfield said that officers were able to contact Cunningham's attorney, who eventually persuaded Cunningham to exit his residence. However, Cunningham allegedly continued to resist attempts to arrest him, requiring police to use a Taser in order to arrest him.

Canfield said there was no evidence that Cunningham used any of the weapons in an illegal manner, though he confirmed that he had access to them.

Cunningham was charged with domestic violence simple assault, felony second degree assault – domestic violence, criminal threatening and resisting arrest. He is currently being held at Belknap County Jail.

11-15 Cunningham standoff

James Patrick Cunningham was arrested on Tuesday morning after a two-hour stand-off with Laconia Police who were responding to a report of domestic violence. Weirs Boulevard was closed to traffic as Laconia Police and members of the Belknap Regional  Special Operations Group surrounded the home where a 911 call originated. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Boys & Girls Club graduates junior tennis class


LACONIA — It took a few practices, but after some effort, 6-year-old Evi was able to catch a bouncing tennis ball and balance it on her racquet without it falling off.

With the assistance of volunteer tennis coach Kent Hemingway, Evi was one of 13 children Thursday who was able to master a racquet control trick that is part of the early stages of learning to play the sport.

"I like playing tennis because I get to hit the balls," she said matter of factly while she waited for Head Coach Kamal Gusine of the United States Tennis Association to call for everyone's presence at the soon-to-come awards ceremony.

Thursday was the final day of an eight-session, five-week program that brought tennis to the Boys and Girls Club for the first time. The National Junior Tennis and Learning network is part of the overall plan of the USTA to bring tennis to under-resourced youth in the United States.

The Boys and Girls Club indoor sessions are extension of an all-volunteer outdoor program that teaches youths in Laconia, Franklin, Tilton, Belmont, Meredith and Gilford to play a sport that many will continue to play in some form for the rest of their lives.

Thanks to a grant from the USTA obtained by member and Laconia Daily Sun Publisher Adam Hirshan, for two years now volunteers from the area, most of whom are members of Gilford Hills Tennis Club, have been teaching tennis at local tennis courts in cooperation with local parks and recreation departments.

The grant provides age-appropriate racquets, slightly larger tennis balls, lower nets and small miscellaneous items for the children to use while playing. At the end of the session, the participants get to keep the racquets.

According to Hemingway, the program at the Boys & Girls Club is different than the outdoor summer program in that the children participate in an educational component for about 30 to 45 minutes after their arrival at the club but before they all go into the gym to play tennis.

Hemingway said one young man who liked playing chess and doing math problems with him decided he would take up an offer to go upstairs and play some tennis. He been playing ever since.

A few of the Boys & Girls Club participants, like 8-year-old Connor, also play tennis in the summer league and, according to Hemingway, are showing some real aptitude for the game.

According to the NJTL website, students who play tennis are less likely to use drugs and alcohol and are far less likely to be obese. Gusine and his coaches also teach sportsmanship, for which there is an award, team-building, and learning to help others. There are usually four to five adults coaches at each session.

USTA member Bob Rondstadt said the members of the local association will be meeting with the executive director of the Central Boys and Girls Clubs in Concord to see determine if the program can be extended in Laconia this spring and expanded to clubs in Concord, Franklin and Penacook.

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Evie gets a high five from Coach Kamal Gosine with Coach Bob Rondstat during their tennis club graduation at the Laconia Boys and Girls Club. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


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Coach Bob Rondstat, Coach Carolyn Hemingway, Coach Kamal Gosine and Coach Kent Hemingway with the Laconia Boys and Girls Club tennis players at their graduation celebration Thursday afternoon.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Gilford may cut teacher aides next year


GILFORD — The School Board voted in favor of a proposed 2017-2018 budget of $26,019,631, which is up 1.5 percent, but cost the district some capital projects that included in the first year of it its 10-year strategic capital plan.

Superintendent Kirk Beitler said the administration's budget proposed eliminating five teaching support positions, most of them through retirement, but when voters who attended the final budget hearing objected to all but two of them, he said the administration and the board were forced to find cuts elsewhere.

He said the district will eliminate one elementary school library position and one part-time high school library support staff member. Both of these positions have employees who will be retiring at the end of the school year.

Beitler said three teachers' aides positions at the middle school were put back in to the budget. He said the proposed reductions in staff were meant to address declining enrollments, which have gone from 1,207 in 2016 to a projected 1,145 in 2017-2018.

He said the trade off, which was needed to keep the overall budget increase under the School Board mandated 2 percent limit, is to put off resurfacing the rubber track at the high school and to replace the stage lighting, which is also at the high school. These items, he said, allowed for a $199,000 reduction.

About two months ago, the School Board adopted a 10-year capital improvement plan that was designed to save for some future larger projects and allowed for about $200,000 per year in non-bonded capital projects annually so as to prevent spikes in the school budget portion of the tax rate caused by maintenance and smaller capital projects.

Beitler said some of the major upward financial drivers for the 2017-2018 budget were an additional $150,000 in mandated state retirement contributions, the first year's bond payment of $215,890 for the elementary school renovations, and a maximum increase in the health insurance premium of $316,504.

The proposed budget now moves on to the Budget Committee for approval.

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