By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Police Officer Joseph Freda, charged with beating a suspect with a flashlight, was fired by Town Manager Keith Hickey yesterday.
Hickey announced that Freda, a member of the Police Department since 2012, was terminated at the recommendation of police Chief Paul Donovan.
Earlier in the day, Freda, 33, waived an administrative hearing before Donovan and did not wish to have a similar hearing before the town manager, Hickey said.
“He has chosen not to take advantage of that opportunity,” Hickey said.
Freda now has the chance to take his case to an arbitrator if he chooses, he said.
Freda was charged with two counts of simple assault after he hit Thomas Templeton in the head and groin with a flashlight and stepped on his hands while arresting him Oct. 6 following a pursuit.
Hickey said in a statement that Freda was dismissed because the town has a no-tolerance policy for excessive use of force.
He said the town and Police Department could not comment further, referring all inquiries to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.
Freda’s attorney, Donald Blaszka, declined to comment on his client’s termination. He has said Freda will plead not guilty to the charges.
The Attorney General’s Office announced Freda’s arrest Jan. 15 following its probe and an internal investigation by Salem police. Freda was placed on paid administrative leave in October and then put on unpaid leave earlier this month after Salem police concluded their investigation.
Freda was scheduled to earn $42,436 this year.
He was released on $2,500 personal recognizance after turning himself in on a warrant last week. Freda is scheduled to be arraigned in 10th Circuit Court in Salem on Feb. 24.
Although the two simple assault charges are misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a year in jail, Freda could face enhanced penalties if convicted because he was an on-duty police officer. He could face two to five years behind bars if a judge imposed the enhanced penalties.
Templeton, 39, was injured during the arrest, suffering lacerations to the head. Freda allegedly hit Templeton with the flashlight and stepped on his hand while he was handcuffed and on the ground, according to the attorney general’s report.
The police pursuit Oct. 6 began about 2 a.m. with Windham Police Sgt. Bryan Bliss following a Jeep Cherokee on Interstate 93 south. New Hampshire State Police Trooper Andrew Monaco took the lead in the pursuit near Exit 2. He reported the Jeep was traveling about 90 to 100 mph.
The Jeep got off the highway at Exit 1 in Salem and sped down Veterans Memorial Parkway, according to a report. The pursuit ended a short time later when the Jeep pulled into Salem Nissan on Main Street and Templeton fled the vehicle. He was found hiding in brush.
After the alleged assaults, Freda reportedly told fellow officers he “whipped” Templeton with a flashlight and “whacked” him in the groin.
Freda is a Salem High School graduate who served in the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming a police officer. He previously worked for the Brookline (N.H.) Police Department.