Alton officer cleared after shooting at car


LACONIA — An Alton police officer was justified in firing one shot at a motor vehicle, the driver of which failed to heed his signals and shouts to slow as he passed the scene of an earlier accident on Feb. 25, concluded Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen.

Following an investigation of the incident by the New Hampshire State Police, Guldbrandsen issued a memo on Tuesday , finding that in the circumstances the conduct of Officer Michael Beaucham "was legally justified" and consequently criminal charges will not be brought against him.

According to the memo, around 7 p.m. Beauchamp was near the junction of Route 140 and Youngstown Road where an impaired driver, traveling westbound had veered off the pavement to his right, hit a tree, careened back onto the road, spun around and came to rest off the eastbound lane facing in the opposite direction. The roadway, lined with snow banks, was wet and it a "dark, misty and foggy" evening.

About an hour later, Beauchamp was clearing the scene of the accident. A tow truck, carrying the damaged car, was in the eastbound lane with Beauchamp's cruiser behind it and two vehicles stopped behind the cruiser. Beauchamp was directing traffic using the open westbound lane. The blue emergency lights on the cruiser and the yellow emergency lights on the tow truck were on.

When an approaching westbound vehicle, driven by Erik Klerk, 50, of Alton, did not appear to be slowing, Beauchamp stepped into the travel lane and signaled with his flashlight. According to Beauchamp and a half dozen witnesses, Klerk failed to slow, and three witnesses reported that he appeared to accelerate. Beauchamp smartly moved aside as the vehicle "passed within inches of him," and he discharged his firearm, firing one shot in the door on the driver's side.

Beauchamp reported that the vehicle was speeding and accelerating. He said he did not recall drawing or firing his weapon, but said he believed "the vehicle was going to kill him." The officer's description of the incident was confirmed by witnesses. The tow truck operator estimated Klerk was traveling at more than 40 mph. The driver of a U-Haul truck watching Klerk said he was driving "erratically" and did not slow. Two witnesses described Klerk as "flying" through the scene.

Beauchamp returned to his cruiser, turned around and stopped Klerk, who after breath test was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.26, more than three times the legal limit. He was charged with aggravated driving under the influence. Klerk would later admit he had drunk alcohol before the incident, but claimed he had slowed and stopped when he heard a bang, thinking he had hit something in the road.

Guldbrandsen noted that the law stipulates that "a law enforcement officer is justified in using deadly force only when he reasonably believes such force is necessary." Furthermore, she cites the United States Supreme Court, which held that "the calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation."

While acknowledging there is no evidence Klerk intended to harm Beauchamp or anyone else, Guldbrandsen found that "a reasonable police officer could reasonable believe that this vehicle ... posed a threat to himself or another person " and "it was not unreasonable to infer that the driver posed an imminent threat of deadly force." At the same time, she said that shooting at the vehicle posed risks, to an innocent passenger or of leaving the car in the control of a dead or wounded driver.

After recounting the incident, Guldbrandsen concluded "taking all this into consideration, although the call is close, the use of deadly force in this case was justified." She added that Beauchamp responded to "a rapidly evolving scene" and "reacted, based upon his training, to protect the scene and the people in it." Moreover, she said "It can't be ignored that the officer placed himself in danger of death or serious bodily injury in good faith to protect others."

$324,684 saved

City Council approves $150K to cover Weirs utility project overrun, Eversource to cover remainder


LACONIA — A dispute over the cost of burying power lines in a major improvement project at The Weirs has been resolved, with the City Council agreeing to provide an additional $150,000 over three years.

Eversource originally estimated the cost of putting the lines underground along Lakeside Avenue at $311,316. Last month, it said the cost would not exceed $786,000.

The difference between the two projections is $474,684. 

The company agreed to limit the city's responsibility for the overage to $150,000, and council members approved that expenditure on Monday night, with $50,000 payments in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 fiscal years. Eversource will be responsible for the rest of the overage.

The overall Weirs improvement project includes street lighting, crosswalks, sidewalks and brickwork. It is being funded at a cost of $1.6 million through Tax Increment Financing, which allows debt to be serviced through property value increases in a defined district.

Council members had the option of covering the overage by scaling back the project, but opted to go forward with all planned improvements.

"I really think that doing anything other than what we originally planned would cheapen it," Councilor Ava Doyle said. "If we're going to do it, we need to do it right. We're trying to make everyone proud of this community."

Joe Driscoll, a member of the Weirs Action Committee, also asked the City Council not to cut back on the project.

"It's very unfortunate that somehow the financing got a little wacky," he said. "This is a beautiful project that has the complete support of the entire Weirs Beach community and will set up the Weirs Beach area for the future."

Kaitlyn Woods, a spokeswoman for Eversource, said the company will examine why the estimated cost of the project changed so drastically. At a public meeting Thursday, company officials did not dispute that the man hours needed to complete the project may have been underestimated in the first projection.

There may also have been a misunderstanding of the project deadline. While all improvement work needs to be complete by Memorial Day, the utility work must be done earlier to ensure the rest of the project stays on time.  

A cobbler’s tale

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Jim Daubenspeck, above, closed his shoe repair shop in Laconia for a few weeks to spend time teaching a woman in St. Lucia how to use a special sewing machine for her business there. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun) Right, Elton, one of the workers at Shoe Rehab in Saint Lucia, displays a pair of repaired shoes. (Courtesy photo)


Laconia’s ‘Daub’ sent an old sewing machine to St. Lucia, sparking a friendship and business venture


LACONIA — Jim Daubenspeck purchased LaBelle's Shoe Repair in Laconia, which is now Daub's Cobbler Shop, because he wanted to help people and be part of a community. The move wove him into the fabric of downtown Laconia and also into the worldwide cobbler community. That was how he found himself in the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia this winter, leading several days of workshops for a woman who is bringing professional shoe repair to a place where the service is much needed.

"It all started with an old, black Singer," Daubenspeck said, chuckling. About a year ago, Daubenspeck noticed a request for a used patching machine on a Facebook group, Shoe Repair International. Daubenspeck happened to have a 1989 Singer that he wasn't using, so he contacted Mandisa Morrison, the person behind the post, and negotiated a fair deal to ship it to her shop in Saint Lucia, an eastern Caribbean island nation.

Daubenspeck, a U.S. Navy veteran, wanted to be sure that Morrison was satisfied with the machine, so he remained in contact in case she should have any trouble with it. 

"We struck upon an immediate friendship," he said, and over the months Morrison asked him for advice about all things related to shoe repair. Daubenspeck came to be impressed by Morrison, who saw a need for professional cobbler services in a place where many people commute on foot and where the only other place to get a shoe repaired was by someone on a street corner who would mend a sole with a piece of old tire. Morrison brought the idea into reality four years ago. She has since opened a second Shoe Rehab location and has further plans for expansion.

So, when she secured an economic development grant to bring an expert in cobbling to Saint Lucia for a workshop, Daubenspeck was happy to accept the invitation.

"I got to be that guy," he said.

It wasn't a Caribbean vacation, though. Daubenspeck spent at least 10 hours of each day training Mandisa's staff, then worked with Mandisa after hours to refine her business plan and develop personnel policies. He received a modest stipend for his time, but he gained more from the experience than dollars.

"I was so refreshed, so motivated and inspired by these young people – just the enthusiasm they brought to every day life," he said. "It's now time to be looking for this next generation. How do we do that? Opportunities like this arise, it got my blood flowing again."

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“Dutch,” working at the Singer patching machine that started the entire journey for Jim Daubenspeck. (Courtesy photo)

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Daubenspeck stands with Mandisa Morrison in front of Shoe Rehab in the Gablewoods Mall in St. Lucia. (Courtesy photo)

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The machine that started the journey. (Courtesy photo)