Belmont police recover van allegedly used for construction site equipment heist

BELMONT — Police said they have recovered stolen items from a 2000 Dodge mini-van that eluded police late Sunday night but was later located in Laconia. An as yet unknown driver steered the vehicle from Sun Lake Drive down an embankment, exiting at Aaron's Furniture and Appliance Store, and then jumped a median on Rte. 3 before and heading off toward Laconia in the wrong lane.

Lt. Rich Mann said yesterday that a police officer on patrol originally noticed the van enter a "closed business" in the Sun Lake neighborhood, which is a new home development. He said the officer got close enough to get the license plate before the driver of the van took off.

Mann said Laconia Police were immediately notified but the van crashed into a parked car in the driveway of a residence on Court Street and the driver fled. Laconia Police logs indicate they assisted Belmont just before midnight.

Police said tools and equipment from a home construction site were missing and the van was impounded after the crash so that police could get a search warrant yesterday.

Mann said Belmont's K-9 and handler conducted a foot search for the driver Sunday night and early Monday morning but were unable to find him or her.

He said Sun Lake Drive is very close to a different construction site where construction tools were taken on July 20, most of which were recovered from pawn shops outside of the Lakes Region. Mann noted that because of the earlier theft and an uptick in the number of thefts from construction sites, police had been patrolling more regularly in the general area.

Mann also recommended that contractors should photograph their tools and equipment and keep records of the serials numbers so they can be easily identified should they be stolen and recovered.

He said anyone with information about these thefts should call the Belmont Police at 267-8350.

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Coffee lovers swarm downtown Laconia during Saturday's festival

LACONIA — "I was behind the expresso for six hours," said Karen Barrett of Wayfarer Coffee Roasters, "and we went through 50 gallons of iced coffee" while Kevin Groleau of Woodshed Roasting Company remarked, "we spent the day trying keep up with making the coffee and didn't stop until nearly four o'clock."

John Morierty of the Main Street Initiative, which sponsored the second New Hampshire Coffee Festival last Saturday, said that two measures were applied to track the size of the crowd, but both failed. "We only know there were a lot of people," he said, adding that he met visitors from Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and New York, some "who made the trek and others who were passing through and stopped."

Barrett said "there was a line out the door all day" and Groleau said that at least 10 people were queuing for coffee during most of the 4-hour festival. The team from A & E Roastery of Amherst was so pleased with the event that they spoke of returning next year before it was over.

While coffee captured the headlines, other vendors also thrived. Happy Cow of Laconia sold out of ice cream. Production never stalled at Cider Belly Donuts of Sanbornton. Baked good sold briskly at Rollin' in the Dough. The Laconia Antique Center, including the lunch counter at the Finer Diner, were busy. Jim Daubenspeck of Daub's Cobbler Shop on Canal described the day as "phenomenal." He said "there must have been at least 400 people in the shop during the day. I didn't get out between eleven and four,"

Moriarty said he had yet to speak with all the downtown merchants, but the opinions of those he has heard from ranged from "a good day to the best day of the year."

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Man who allegedly hit Center Harbor Police Chief with a car indicted for assault

CENTER HARBOR — The man alleged to have deliberately struck Police Chief Mark Chase with a car on June 6 has been indicted by a Belknap County grand jury for one felony count of second degree assault and one felony count of reckless conduct.

Matthew McKeen, 27, of Laconia is also charged with three misdemeanor counts of disobeying an officer, aggravated driving while intoxicated, and one count of conduct after an accident.

The two felonies, one of the charges of disobeying an officer and the charge of conduct after an accident, allegedly occurred in Center Harbor. The two counts of disobeying an officer and the aggravated driving while intoxicated charge were from the aftermath of his alleged assault on Chase, when McKeen allegedly refused to stop for Meredith Police after he fled from Center Harbor.

According to affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Chase was on patrol just before midnight on June 6 and noticed a Subaru Forester parked in the parking lot of the Center Harbor ball field on Dane Road. Chase's car — a fully marked patrol car — was facing McKeen's car. Chase said he saw a man in a red shirt sitting in the front driver's seat.

Chase said the Subaru began to back up so he turned on the cruiser spot light and the blue lights and got out of his cruiser. McKeen stopped backing up and gave Chase a hand signal. Chase said he told McKeen to stop, but McKeen allegedly accelerated toward him and struck him with the left side of his car.

Chase, who was dressed in a full police uniform, was knocked to the ground but was able to report what had happened. He sustained some minor abrasions to his arms and one leg. A police broadcast was issued for McKeen's Subaru.

About 30 minutes later, a Meredith police officer saw the car on Route 3 and noticed the driver's side mirror was pushed in. When he attempted to stop the car, McKeen allegedly fled for a second time and was pursued by the officer until he crashed on Pickerel Pond Road in Laconia, which runs between Parade and Meredith Center Roads.

McKeen will be arraigned sometime next week.

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