Men arrested after bullets sprayed at homes

Allison Corneau/Staff photoJoseph Sweeney, left, and Daniel Doherty appear via video conference Tuesday for a dangerousness hearing before Haverhill District Court Judge Mary McCabe.

HAVERHILL — A judge has ruled that two men charged in a shooting on West Lowell Avenue are a danger to the public, ordering the accused shooter to remain behind bars and his accomplice to around-the-clock house arrest.

Police said several homes were hit in the shooting shortly after 1 a.m. Friday, but no one was injured. One of the bullets went into a bedroom, close to a husband and wife who were sleeping, police said. It is unclear whether the shooting was random or if someone was targeted, police said.

One of the men charged had been drinking, police said. The two men were linked to the shooting after their 2009 gray Toyota Camry crashed in the rural neighborhood, according to police.

Police said Daniel Doherty, 22, of Methuen had a blood alcohol level that registered .09% when he crashed the car into a utility pole near 46 Crystal St. at 1:47 a.m. Friday. The legal blood alcohol limit is .08%. Doherty was in the car with Joseph Sweeney, 20, who lives at 240 Crystal St., Haverhill, a short distance from the crash site, police said.

At a dangerousness hearing Tuesday — conducted via Zoom while Haverhill District Court remains closed due to COVID-19 — details of the case were unveiled and judge ruled on the immediate future of the men charged.

According to a police report, officers dispatched to the crash found a black and brown gun with one round in the chamber inside a black duffel bag Sweeney was holding on his lap when police arrived. Officers also found two rounds of ammunition inside his pocket and one casing from a discharged round of ammunition, according to the police report. Sweeney could not produce a firearm identification card or a license to carry a gun, the report said. He was then arrested. 

Doherty refused to perform a field sobriety test and was "slurring his speech (and) had red, glossy, bloodshot eyes," the police report said. He was arrested and charged with operating under the influence of liquor.

Once Doherty's car was searched by police, additional ammunition — including one .380-caliber round and one spent .380-caliber casing — were found, along with cash, drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to the police report.

After the crash, police responded to the area of 896 West Lowell Ave., for a report of shots fired earlier. The caller told police she heard seven shots outside her home around 1:30 a.m. On her home's surveillance system, the woman saw a car's headlights come up the street about 1:39 a.m., the police report said.

According to the report, .380-caliber automatic shell casings were found in the street, including one Winchester shell that was crushed. 

Another West Lowell Avenue neighbor reported bullet holes in her home when she woke up that morning, the police report said. The homeowner found that a bullet had entered her bedroom just below a window, according to the report. Police said they found the bullet under an electric baseboard heater three feet from the woman's bed. She told police she and her husband were sleeping at the time of the shooting and that they woke up from the noise but quickly fell back to sleep, according to the police report.

At Tuesday's court hearing, Assistant District Attorney Stephen LaMonica said that because ammunition was found in Doherty's car after the crash, police decided to investigate the men and interview them in relation to the shooting on West Lowell Avenue.

During a police interview, Sweeney said he did not know there was a gun in the car, but said the duffel bag and marijuana and clothing inside it were his, according to the police report. Sweeney told police the shell casing in his pocket was probably there because he "went shooting with his friend in New Hampshire earlier," but he would not name that friend, the report said.

In his interview with police, Doherty denied knowing there was a gun in the car or anything about the bullet casing found in Sweeney's pocket, the police report said.

Later, according to the report, Doherty "finally said that Sweeney was just being stupid and shot the gun out the window" of their vehicle.

In his interview with police, Doherty said he told Sweeney to put the gun away, the police report said. Doherty told police that Sweeney fired the gun enough times to make Doherty angry, according to the report.

As a result of Doherty's statements and the investigation into the shooting, Sweeney was also charged with four counts of assault and battery with a firearm, two counts of malicious destruction, and one count of discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, according to court records. Both men also face various firearms and drug possession charges stemming from the car crash.

The men appeared before Haverhill District Court Judge Mary McCabe at Tuesday's hearing. McCabe declared both men a danger to the community. She ruled Sweeney will remain held without bail while the case is pending. Doherty was released to the custody of his parents in Methuen, where he will be on house arrest and must wear a GPS monitor, the judge ruled.

Doherty was employed installing garage doors at the time of his arrest, the police report said. The judge denied Doherty's request to continue working while on GPS monitoring. In doing so, she told him to consider house arrest like being in jail. 

"With all due respect to the value of work, I'm not putting that on a small business owner to keep an eye on Mr. Doherty," McCabe said. "If you go out or do anything to violate this order, you'll be in jail."

Both men are scheduled to next appear in court in late July.

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