, Newburyport, MA

February 25, 2013

Lawsuit filed in 2010 police chase

Injured motorist charges town, officer with negligence

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SEABROOK — A North Hampton, N.H., man injured in a 2010 accident involving a Seabrook police cruiser is suing the town and officer involved.

Interim Town Manager Joseph Titone said the town received notice last week that Colin Chevalier has filed suit in Rockingham Superior Court.

The four-count suit cites grounds of negligence on the part of both officer Jeremy Tetreault and the town surrounding the Feb. 5, 2010, accident, as well as a lack of proper supervision and training on the part of the police department.

The suit claims the accident caused Chevalier significant injury at the time and the aftermath has continued to cause lingering medical expenses and lost wages.

According to court documents, the suit alleges Tetreault was negligent during a high-speed pursuit that began on Route 1 in Seabrook. It claims the officer ran a red light and drove “in excess of 100 (miles per hour) in a 35-mph zone,” resulting in the officer crashing his cruiser into Chevalier’s car at the intersection of routes 1 and 111 in North Hampton

Titone declined comment, citing pending litigation.

The crash, which totaled one of the town’s 2008 Crown Victoria cruisers, generated controversy from the start, with questions surrounding the appropriateness of the chase as well as the initial refusal by the town and state to release the name of the Seabrook officer involved.

The state also initially declined to release an official copy of the New Hampshire State Police’s investigative report on the accident. After the report was leaked anonymously to the Portsmouth, N.H., Herald, the newspaper sued the state for the information, but was told the officer’s name was shielded by the state’s Driver Privacy Act. However, an attorney from the New Hampshire Department of Safety eventually released Tetreault’s name.

The chase resulted after a driver whom Tetreault attempted to stop on Route 1 in Seabrook took off, the town’s then Deputy Chief Lee Bitomske said at the time.

A state police report found Tetreault was driving too fast, in excess of 100 mph, posing a risk to others, in violation of state law.

Portsmouth, N.H., police picked up the pursuit after a lieutenant for the city noticed a vehicle with no lights zip past him at a high rate of speed while he was at the corner of Ocean Road and Route 1.

The three women in the car eventually fled on foot. One woman was arrested outside the car almost immediately, but it took almost two hours of searching with police dogs in the woods off Route 1A to find and arrest the other two, who were eventually tracked with the assistance of a bloodhound K-9 and found hiding in a subdivision off Route 1A in Kittery, Maine.

“The driver told us they were shopping in Seabrook and had gone to a couple of stores there,” Portsmouth police Lt. Rodney McQuate said at the time. “Then, when they were driving, one of the women lit up a crack pipe, and the next thing (the driver) knew, there were blue lights in her rear-view mirror. She told us she just decided she wasn’t going to go to jail.”

Arrested at the time was the car’s driver, Jacqueline Trottman, then 42, of Dorchester, who was charged with driving after license suspension, conduct after an accident, resisting arrest, disobeying an officer, possession of narcotics (crack cocaine) and possession of drugs in a motor vehicle.

Also arrested were Linda Estrella, then 43, of Cambridge, who was charged with resisting arrest and possession of crack cocaine, and Monique Sadberry, then 39, of Roxbury, charged with filing a false report with police and possession of crack cocaine. Police said they found about $4,000 in cash in the vehicle.