By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — The man who died in a car crash fleeing police after stealing a case of beer from one store and trying to shoplift two pints of vodka from another Monday was charged in a 2004 alcohol-fueled attempted killing of a cop.
Dean Stockwell, 49, of Newton, N.H., died shortly after Monday’s 11 a.m. accident. Police said Stockwell robbed a Plaistow store of a case of beer and two packs of cigarettes early that morning and then tried to shoplift two bottles of vodka from a Haverhill convenience store while driving a stolen car. A Haverhill police officer spotted the stolen car a short time later, but lost sight of it when it sped away northbound on Main Street.
Stockwell turned the Honda Odyssey onto North Avenue, rear-ended another car, struck and seriously injured a pedestrian walking a dog, and then slammed into a tree. Stockwell was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The driver of the rear-ended car was identified as William Fantini, 56, of 3 Solitaire Drive, Haverhill. Fantini was treated and released from a local hospital, officials said.
The 39 year-old pedestrian who was struck was initially taken to Lawrence General Hospital and was transported to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. His name is not being released at this time. Police said the man suffered serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.
The Essex District Attorney’s Office said Stockwell had various addresses in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Monday’s crash remains under investigation by Haverhill Police and Massachusetts State Police C.A.R.S. (Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section).
According to the district attorney’s office, Stockwell served six months in jail after pleading guilty in 2004 to drunken driving and assault with intent to kill after he dragged a police officer with his car.
At the time, Stockwell’s lawyer tried to downplay the assault charge, claiming his client was too drunk at the time to have the intent to kill the police officer who saved himself by throwing himself into the back of Stockwell’s pickup truck as he drove at speeds in excess of 70 mph.
On April 11, 2004, Officer Sonny Greenwood pulled Stockwell over near the Haverhill Water Treatment Plant on Route 110 after Stockwell fled from a hit and-run accident in Monument Square. Greenwood tried to pull Stockwell out of his pickup truck, but Stockwell hit the gas, catching Greenwood in the door.
As Stockwell picked up speed, Greenwood flung himself into the bed of the truck to avoid being hit by oncoming cars. Stockwell’s speed reached in excess of 70 mph and the officer was “being thrown around in the back of the truck and warned the man several times to stop.’’
Fearing for his life, Greenwood pulled his 9 mm service pistol and fired one round through the split rear window of the Chevrolet pickup. Stockwell continued 1.8 miles to the southbound entrance to Interstate 495 on Amesbury Road before pulling over. At the time, police said Greenwood had no choice but to shoot him to make him stop.
When police searched the interior of Stockwell’s truck after the 2004 incident, officers found 11 empty “nips” of vodka, five empty beer cans and one open beer still full, a prosecutor said during his arraignment on charges that included assault with intent to murder, driving while under the influence of alcohol and failure to stop for a police officer.
Stockwell’s defense lawyer tried to downplay the charge of assault with intent to murder saying Stockwell’s drunkenness dashed any chance of proving he planned to kill Greenwood by speeding away with the officer in tow. The lawyer said Stockwell’s level of intoxication was so serious, “that it would rule out the intent to murder.”
Stockwell pleaded guilty to the charges on Sept. 17, 2004 and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in the House of Correction with six months to be served, and the balance suspended for three years and three years probation.
About a half hour before Stockwell crashed the stolen minivan he was driving Monday, he stopped by a local variety store to buy alcohol then tried to walk out without paying. The clerk chased after him, stepped on his foot and snatched the paper bag containing two pint-size bottles of vodka. Stockwell drove off in a minivan, and the store notified police.
“My clerk said ‘I’ll be damned if he was going to get away with it,” said Charlie Antonopoulos, owner of Charlie’s Variety on Groveland Street. “I think she chased the man and took the products away from him out of instinct.”
The incident at Charlie’s Variety was among a string of similar incidents leading up to the man’s death. Stockwell is also suspected of stealing cigarettes and beer from a convenience store in Plaistow and stiffing a restaurant on his bill.
A Haverhill police officer spotted the stolen silver Honda Odyssey about one hour and 45 minutes after police in Plaistow, N.H., issued a 9:15 a.m. broadcast about the vehicle being used in the robbery of the Mini Express at 98 Main St., Plaistow. According to Haverhill Police, the officer followed the stolen car with his cruiser’s blue lights and sirens on. However, the officer said the suspect sped away heading northbound on Main Street and the officer lost sight of the car.
Stockwell died shortly after the 11 a.m. accident which occurred just a few yards from the Walnut Square School.
Antonopoulos said the man entered his store at 10:17 a.m. and asked a female clerk for two pint-size bottles of vodka. Antonopoulous was in his office at the rear of the store when another clerk, who’d also followed the man outside rushed back to his office to tell him what had happened. Antonopolous raced outside but the man was gone.
“The clerk said she had bagged the two pints of vodka and was ringing up the sale when the man grabbed the bag and said he’d be right back as his money was in his van,” Antonopoulos said. “She followed him outside and said ‘are you going to make me chase you for the money?’”
“When they were outside she stomped on his foot and took the bag from him,” he said.
Antonopoulos said the woman took note of the man’s license plate number and the type of vehicle he was driving. The incident was immediately reported to police.
“An officer came by and we showed him a video in which you could see the whole incident,” he said. “We didn’t find out about the crash or that the man had died until after lunch time.”
“We don’t get much of this kind of thing down here,” Antonopolous said about the attempted shoplifting. Antonopolous said there was nothing to indicate the man had been drinking before entering his store.
“There was no smell of alcohol and he didn’t seem to be impaired in any way, or else we’d have told him to walk,” he said. “There would have been no sale.”