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June 7, 2011

Police issue warrant for downtown stabbing suspect

Gang, youth problems lead to more patrols in downtown Newburyport

NEWBURYPORT — Police yesterday issued an arrest warrant for a Newbury man they believe stabbed a Plum Island resident Sunday afternoon, only yards away from where tourists were walking in downtown Newburyport.

Joseph C. Poaletta, 19, whose last known address was the Harbor Schools at 24 Rolfes Lane in Newbury, was charged with armed assault with intent to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

The Harbor Schools is a residential complex where courts refer people aged 14 to 21 with behavioral or psychological problems for treatment.

Police believe Poaletta stabbed 20-year-old Damian T. Dobson of Plum Island in the lower abdomen during an altercation on Prince Place, a quiet side street that runs next to the Newburyport Public Library.

Dobson was transported to Anna Jaques Hospital and then airlifted in critical condition to Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. A Beth Israel-Deaconess spokesperson said Dobson was not a patient in the hospital but added that patients can keep their presence in the hospital secret should they choose.

But Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday said yesterday that she was informed that Dobson was doing better.

Holaday expressed concern about the incident saying "this level of violence is something we don't want and don't see" very often.

Holaday stressed that Sunday's stabbing was a rare occurrence in Newburyport, calling it an isolated event. She also made it a point to assure visitors that Newburyport is a safe city.

"No one should have concerns coming into the city," Holaday said.

The motive for the attack is still under investigation, but Marshal Thomas Howard said Poaletta and Dobson belonged to different gangs well known by police to frequent the city. Events leading to the stabbing began closer to Inn Street, the tourist-friendly walking mall replete with numerous businesses and offices. The groups then decided to move their activities to Prince Place, farther away from the public eye and from an increased police presence specially assigned to keep an eye on Inn Street.

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