Suspect appears to have left apartmetn house before Tuesday afternoon siege

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.

DOT holding meeting tonight about red list bridge on Waukewan Rd.

NEW HAMPTON — The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) will host a public meeting informational meeting tonight at the New Hampton Public Safety Building at 26 Intervale Drive to discuss the reconstruction of the bridge crossing the mouth of the Snake River on Waukewan Road. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the presentation will begin at 7:p.m.

The bridge, which was built in 1928 is a concrete slab with stone abutments 13 feet long and 21 feet wide. It has been on the DOT's red list since 2010 and is inspected twice each year. The project is scheduled to be undertaken in 2021 at an estimated cost of $1 million. The new bridge remains to be designed and engineered, but is expected to carry two lanes, each 11 feet wide with 4-foot shoulders.

Apart from informing the general public and municipal officials about the project, the meeting is intended to solicit opinion to ensure that the project serves transportation needs, meets community goals, and protects and enhances the natural environment.


Former Sgt. at sheriff's office charged with raping female prisoner during transport

LACONIA — E. Justin Blanchette, 36, a former sergeant with the Belknap County Sheriff's Department, has been indicted by a Hillsborough County grand jury on a charge of aggravated felonious sexual assault.
Blanchette is accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate while transporting her from the Belknap County House of Correction to the N.H. State Prison for Women in Goffstown on July 2 of this year.
The indictment says that Blanchette drove the 31-year-old woman to an abandoned home in Bedford where he is alleged to have penetrated her sexually. "At that time he was in a position of authority over 'B.H.' and used that authority to coerce 'B.H.' to submit," the indictment reads.
Blanchette resigned from his position with the Sheriff's Department in August after having been placed on paid administrative leave on July 20. At the time of his resignation Sheriff Craig Wiggin said that there was an investigation, but it was a personnel matter and he wasn't going to comment further.
Blanchette joined the Sheriff's Department in October of 2011 and was a police officer in Laconia prior to joining the county force. Blanchette had received a meritorious service award in 2008 while an officer in Laconia and had served as treasurer of the Belknap County Sheriff's Relief Association until his resignation.
A Raymond High School graduate Blanchette served in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Laconia police force.
The complaint from the Bedford Police Department says that Blanchette's last known address was 210 Woodridge Road, Franklin.
If convicted, he faces 10-20 years in prison.

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