SALISBURY — A 30-year veteran of the Seabrook Police Department and former New Hampshire state representative was arraigned yesterday following his arrest Sunday night at Salisbury Beach after police say he slammed into a parked car while drunk.
Sgt. Mark F. Preston, 51, of Seabrook, was charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene after property damage and a marked lanes violation.
Newburyport District Court Judge Allen Swan ordered Preston held on $500 bail and scheduled a pretrial hearing for Aug. 22, at the State Street courthouse.
If found guilty of leaving the scene after property damage, Preston could be sentenced to up to two years in jail, fined up to $1,000 and lose his driver's license for at least a year. Those charged with drunken driving for the first time are often not sent to jail.
Preston has been a member of the Seabrook Police Department since 1980 and is among the department's longest-serving officers. Only police Chief Patrick Manthorn has served with the Seabrook Police Department longer than Preston, if not counting part-time officers, according to the department's online duty roster.
Earlier this year, Preston ran an unsuccessful campaign to fill an unexpected vacancy for the Rockingham District 14 seat in the state House of Representatives, failing to win the Democratic primary held in July. Previously, he served two terms as Rockingham District 14's state representative, but chose not to run for a third term last year. Preston also served six years on the Seabrook Planning Board, three as vice chairman.
A spokeswoman for Manthorn declined to comment on Preston's arrest or whether his police status will be altered as a result.
"We cannot discuss personnel issues," the spokeswoman said.
Salisbury police Chief Richard Merrill also declined to comment on the arrest other than to say Preston was non-combative when arrested.
According to the police report of officer Timothy Hunter, Preston was verbally belligerent and expressed disbelief that fellow police officers would place him under arrest and hold him in a jail cell until he could make bail.
According to the arrest report, Preston was traveling north on North End Boulevard after leaving the nearby Shore Club about 8:45 p.m. when he plowed into the back of a Kia sedan that had pulled over in the breakdown lane near 268 North End Blvd.
The force of the collision drove the sedan into two parked cars. The driver of the Kia, Paul Justice, sustained injuries to his arm and shoulder but refused medical treatment.
After the collision, Preston continued driving north before parking about 100 feet away. He then left his vehicle and began walking toward Seabrook, according to the report.
By the time officers Hunter and James Leavitt arrived, there were at least 30 bystanders crowded around the Kia. Some of them pointed out Preston to police as the man who collided with the sedan and implored them to catch him before he got away.
Once approached by police, Preston claimed the owner of the Kia backed into the middle of the road, and he just clipped him. But according to the police report, the Kia sedan showed considered damage to its rear, with the driver's side portion of the trunk completely crunched.
When it became apparent to Preston that Salisbury police were going to arrest him, he became extremely upset saying that he couldn't believe they would treat a police "brother" that way, the report said. Police described Preston as smelling of alcohol, with slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and having trouble remaining upright. Preston refused to take a field sobriety test and declined to submit to a blood-alcohol test. As Preston was placed in the back of a cruiser, about 100 people had gathered around the scene.
Also assisting in the arrest were officers Richard Dellaria and Patrick Szymkowski.
Once at the Salisbury Police Department, Sgt. Robert Roy called Seabrook police to inform them of Preston's arrest. Preston continued to be belligerent, yelling at Salisbury police officers they would regret arresting him and that they were ruining his career and his life, according to the police report.
Interviewed outside the Railroad Avenue police station yesterday, Doris Lavoie of North End Boulevard, the owner of one of the damaged cars, said she was upstairs when she was told by a family member that there were emergency vehicles outside her house. When she opened her front door, she saw several police cruisers, fire engines and at least one ambulance
"It was pandemonium," Lavoie said, before pointing to the damaged passenger side rear of her Ford Focus.