LACONIA — A stand-off that began around 12:30 p.m. at 20 Jewett Street when police responded to a report that a man was threatening someone with a firearm ended with a cloud of tear gas at 4 p.m., but left several law enforcement agencies empty-handed. The multi-story apartment house they had surrounded was uninhabited.
At The Daily Sun's press time, A search was underway for a suspect identified only as "John Doe".
According to police, a man called to report that he had been threatened by another man with a firearm. When officers reached the scene the caller told them the suspect was still in unit 2 of the house. Officers called for the suspect to come outside, but received no reply, then safely evacuated the other tenants in the building. Residents of other buildings on Jewett Street and River Street in a line of sight were also evacuated.
Laconia officers established a perimeter around the building and summoned the Belknap County Special Operations Group, which was soon joined by officers from the Gilford Police Department and New Hampshire State Police.
Helmeted members of the special operations group outfitted with body armor and carrying assault rifles huddled on the porch at the front door, but failed to rouse a response from inside while others spread through the neighborhood, some perching on roof tops, to strengthen the perimeter. From a bullhorn atop the Bearcat parked in the street, an officer called on a "Mr. Audette" to come out of the building.
Chief Chris Adams said that shortly before 4 p.m. a woman came out of the building and was detained and questioned by police. Soon afterwards four cans of tear gas were tossed in, followed by a team from the special operations group, who found the building empty.
Police later obtained a warrant to search 20 Jewett Street and since the victim was unsure of the suspect's full name, an arrest warrant for "John Doe". During a search of the building, detectives from the Laconia Police Department recovered a shotgun and several rounds of ammunition from unit 2.
The neighborhood was cordoned off during the standoff. Arch Street. Jewett Street and River Street were closed to foot and vehicle traffic and Church Street was barricaded from the intersection with Messer Street to Beacon Street West. The house under siege was plainly visible from the Church Streeet bridge and police shooed groups of onlookers lining the bridge behind barricades and intercepted persistent interlopers trying to cross it. Students living in the neighborhood or passing through to get home were held at their schools. Holy Trinity School, at the corner of Church Street and Messer Street was locked down.
As neighbors were evacuated clutches of onlookers gathered either side of the bridge were rife with speculation and gossip about who provoked the incident and how it arose. Nearly everyone in this close neighborhood knew someone who may or may not have been in the building when the trouble started.
Some claimed the trouble started erupted when police sought to serve an arrest warrant and the suspect took hostages, a rumor Adams flatly denied. "There was no warrant served," he said. Several said that 20 Jewett Street was a known hive of drug trafficking and suggested the dispute arose over the sale of drugs to an undercover officer. Several said that the suspect was brandishing a 12-guage shotgun while others claimed it was a rifle.
Police are continuing to investigate the incident and are pursuing an active arrest warrant for criminal threatening. Anyone with information about this case should contact the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252.
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