EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 6, 2012

Report: Officers were justified in shooting Pelham man

Officers fired at car 25 times

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
jmackenzie@eagletribune.com

---- — WINDHAM — Windham and Pelham police officers were justified when they shot at a Pelham man Oct. 28, according to a 10-page report issued late yesterday by Attorney General Michael Delaney.

Two Windham officers and a Pelham officer shot at Grant Hebert, 21, 25 times, based on spent cartridges found around Hebert’s car, which was shot on three sides, the report said.

Hebert faces felony charges from the incident that include attempted first-degree assault, reckless conduct placing another in danger, disobeying an officer, driving under the influence and aggravated driving while intoxicated.

Judge Robert Stephen of the 10th Circuit Court in Salem last week found probable cause for Hebert to stand trial on the charges.

The incident started in Pelham just after 1:30 a.m. Oct. 28 and ended in a field in Windham about five minutes later after a chase that reached speeds in excess of 90 mph. Police charge Hebert drove his Hyundai Tiburon at officers, putting them in fear for their lives and the pubic’s safety, according to the report.

Hebert had been drinking and smoking marijuana before he tried to outrun police, who initially tried to stop him for traveling 40 mph in a 30-mph zone, the report says. He had been charged with marijuana possession five months earlier and had a month of good behavior to complete on that charge before it would be dropped from his file, according to the report.

After he had been handcuffed at the scene, Hebert reportedly told Windham police Officer Shane Mirisola he had recently been arrested for marijuana possession and “didn’t want to get in trouble again.”

Pelham Officer Eugene Stahl, one of three officers who shot at Hebert, first tried to stop him on Timberlane Road in Pelham. But Hebert sped up and headed in Windham, the report said. At that point, Windham Officers Christopher Van Hirtum and Mirisola, the other two involved in the shooting, joined the pursuit.

Before police could put out stop sticks on Heritage Hill Road, Hebert barreled down the road at approximately 60 to 65 mph, the report said. With police in pursuit, Hebert continued on to Lowell Road, reaching speeds police estimated were in excess of 90 mph.

The Hyundai crashed through a fence at 47 Lowell Road, then headed into a field. Stahl turned his cruiser into the driveway and Hebert rammed its passenger side with the Hyundai. That cruiser was disabled.

Mirisola continued along Lowell Road, driving alongside Hebert as he continued driving north off the roadway until he came upon a large metal gate police believed would prevent him from continuing on. Mirisola and Van Hirtum got out of their cruisers and approached the gate on foot.

They yelled at Hebert to turn off his car and put his hands outside the vehicle. Instead, Hebert accelerated, heading directly at the gate. By then, Stahl was approaching on foot. Mirisola, believing he and Van Hirtum were about to be hit by the Hyundai, fired “a volley of several rounds” at Hebert’s windshield, the report said.

Still, Hebert didn’t stop. He accelerated and crashed through the gate, forcing Mirisola to dive out of the way, according to the report.

Van Hirtum, too, told investigators he thought he and Mirisola were about to be hit by the speeding car. He fired several rounds at the car, as did Stahl.

Van Hirtum and Stahl both told investigators they believed Mirisola had been hurt, possibly killed, after they lost sight of him.

But still, the report states, Hebert continued to try to flee the scene. After Mirisola fired a second round of shots at the two-door sedan, the engine finally stopped revving.

Only then did Hebert put his hands out the driver’s side window and tell police, “All right. I stopped. I’m done. I’m done,” the report states.

After Hebert was handcuffed, Mirisola told him, “You tried to hit me with your car.” Hebert responded, “I’m sorry,” according to the report.

Police weren’t sure of the extent of Hebert’s injuries, but noticed what appeared to be a bullet hole in the back of his sweatshirt. Neither Mirisola nor Stahl were injured. Van Hirtum received a cut on his thumb.

Hebert was taken to Parkland Medical Center in Derry, but since he refused to give investigators access to his medical records, it’s not clear to what extent he was injured. He appeared to walk without difficulty in a Salem courtroom last week.

Based on observation by officers at the scene and the hospital, he appeared to have small puncture wounds to his lower calf and his upper back, swelling around one eye and a bullet fragment under his scalp at the back of his head, according to the report.

Hebert refused a blood test for alcohol or other drugs. But a police officer overheard him telling a hospital worker he had been drinking beer and smoking marijuana that evening, the report said.

The investigation of the shooting was done by detectives with the New Hampshire State Police Major Crime Unit. They interviewed the officers involved, reviewed videotape from the Pelham cruiser, interviewed Hebert’s mother, searched the scene, the officers’ weapons and the car.

Mirisola fired 10 times, Van Hirtum nine and Stahl six, according to investigators.

They found a pill believed to be prescription pain medication and a marijuana roach in Hebert’s car.

The report concludes Hebert posed a threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officers, and would have posed a public threat had police not stopped him from continuing on.

All three officers are back on active duty.

Hebert, who is free on bail, has been recovering from his injuries, according to his mother. He is a student at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.

Follow Jo-Anne MacKenzie on Twitter @ETNHEditor.