By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Police have placed the highest priority on finding the man who robbed two women Monday at 5 p.m. along a portion of what will be the Laconia-to-Belmont leg of the WOW trail. The attack happened somewhere near the border between the two.
Two women, ages 30 and 35, said a man attacked them by pushing one woman to the ground and taking the purse of the other one while brandishing a small black handgun. The purse contained a passport and identifications for both women. Police said the victim told them he ran toward the Belknap Mall.
Chief Chris Adams said the two women appeared to be of Asian-Indian decent and are residents of Laconia. He said they were walking along the trail toward Laconia. Fire officials said there was some language barriers during their encounters.
The woman who was pushed apparently hit her head when she fell. She was taken by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital and later flown to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
Police said the uninjured woman told them that the man was taller than 5 feet 6 inches, of average build, had a skinny face and smelled strongly of alcohol. He was described as wearing blue jeans, a black sweatshirt, a blue-collared jacket and black gloves.
Adams said that detectives and patrol officers from Belmont and Laconia canvassed the area that night and have spoken to a number of people. He said they continue to search the area and interview people who may have some information.
He said any random act of violence like this is always a high priority for the police department.
During the time of the armed robbery, the Laconia City Council was listening to a proposal about Phase 2 of the city portion of the WOW Trail that will go along that stretch of the old railroad corridor.
Mayor Ed Engler said he was saddened to learn of the attack, but says building the trail will enhance the area and statistics have shown that areas where there are maintained recreation trails have had positive effects on surrounding neighborhoods.
He said that Phase 1, from Lakeport to Main Street in Laconia, went through was was once a longstanding area popular with the homeless. He said today the incidence of homeless camps in that area has dropped and increases in recreation population tends to reduce the kind of behavior exhibited by Monday's armed robbery.
While he said there is no way of knowing at this point if Monday's perpetrator is homeless, he said he expects that once Phase 2 of the trail is built, the area will be less secluded and people will be less vulnerable to similar attacks.
"We expect the recreation trail to improve the area and not make it worse," Engler said.
Adams asked that anyone who may have seen this encounter or has any information call the Laconia Police at 524-5252.