EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 24, 2013

Suspect in trooper assault arraigned

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — DERRY — A Concord man is being held on $150,000 cash bail this morning after pleading not guilty to charges he assaulted a state trooper, stole a car and led authorities on a two-day manhunt.

Sean McGurk, 42, appeared before Judge John Coughlin in 10th Circuit Court to hear the charges brought against him stemming from an incident Saturday night that began along Interstate 93 south in Salem.

McGurk, who police say has an extensive criminal history, was charged with assaulting and injuring New Hampshire State Police Trooper James Powers. The trooper needed treatment at a local hospital.

Powers had stopped shortly before 8 p.m. to help McGuirk, who he believed had broken down along the highway. When Powers spoke to McGuirk as he sat in a white Volvo, the man suddenly became aggressive and tried to flee.

Powers used a stun gun and pepper spray, but McGurk assaulted him before running off into the woods. McGurk stole a Pontiac Grand Am from a Brady Avenue home and fled to Haverhill, Mass., where he abandoned the vehicle in a parking lot, state police said.

He was captured shortly after noon Monday by the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section after authorities received a tip he was at the Best Western hotel in Haverhill.

McGurk, wearing a orange prison jumpsuit, denied in court that he struck Powers. Approximately a dozen state police officers attended the arraignment.

State police Sgt. Bryan Trask asked the judge to set McGurk's bail at $75,000 cash.

"We feel he is a danger to society and law enforcement as well based on his past history and Saturday," Trask said.

Coughlin responded by doubling McGurk's bail after Trask outlined the defendant's criminal record, which included a standoff in Vermont in 2010 that lasted several hours. A SWAT team eventually flushed him out of the house using tear gas.

McGurk briefly spoke about the incident in court this morning.

"The whole thing was blown out of proportion," he said.

McGurk asked the judge for a court-appointed lawyer. He is charged with simple assault, resisting arrest and driving after suspension in connection with the I-93 incident.

He was also prosecuted by Salem police on a theft charge for stealing the Grand Am. Prosecutor Jason Grosky agreed with the $150,000 cash bail set by Coughlin and asked that McGurk be barred from having contact with the vehicle's owner.

After the arraignment, New Hampshire State Police Lt. Christopher Wagner said they were pleased with the high bail set by the judge.

He said Powers is recovering from his injuries, which were minor, and expects to return to the state police force later this week.

"He is doing well," Wagner said. "He is taking a couple of days off to recuperate."

Wagner also spoke of the show of support in court from Powers' comrades.

"We stand strong for one another," he said.