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Fire Displaces Five Pittsfield Residents

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Thursday night fire caused nearly $10,000 worth of damage to a Worthington Street home.
 
Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Garner said the department received a report at 7:43 p.m. of a basement fire at 10-12 Worthington Street, located near the intersection of West Housatonic Street and Center Street. The fire displaced five residents from the two-family home but nobody was injured.
 
Garner estimates some $8,000 to $10,000 worth of damage. 
 
On arrival, firefighters found fire encompassing a small room in the laundry area in the rear portion of the cellar.
 
"Engine 3 mounted an aggressive attack with a 1-3/4 inch handline, knocking down the main body of the fire within minutes," Garner wrote in a statement.
 
Firefighters from Engine 1 secured a water supply and assisted with a secondary attack line. Engine-5 searched the whole building to see if the blaze extended elsewhere — finding it had breached into a bedroom. The extending fire was extinguished. Tower 1 ventilated the structure and Engine 6 stood by on alert. 
 
"The fire was under control within 45 minutes. City building, wiring, and health inspectors arrived. Eversource and Berkshire Gas shut down service to the building until repairs can be made," Garner wrote. "A total of five occupants were displaced by this blaze."
 
Garner says fire damage was confided to 25 percent of the basement and there was "moderate" smoke damage to the first and second floors. The cause of the fire is being investigated by Pittsfield Fire Department and the state fire marshal's office. 
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State Fire Marshal Seeking Info On Lanesborough Garage Fire

Staff Reports
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The state fire marshal is looking for the public's help in determining how a garage fire was started on North Main Street just after midnight Thursday.

Lanesborough Fire Chief Charles Durfee said firefighters responded at 12:16 a.m. to the structure fire at 558 North Main St. The fire was fully involved when they arrived and the chief called for tankers from Hancock, Cheshire and New Ashford fire departments.

It took nearly four hours to extinguish the blaze in the secluded area.

The fire marshal's office, under State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, is investigating the cause of the blaze and is asking for anyone who heard or saw people or vehicles in the area to call Lanesborough Police at 413-443-4107.

"There was a fire last night in a garage in a remote location off of North Main Street. The building was fully engulfed by the time the fire was noticed shortly after midnight and the Lanesborough Fire Department called. The investigative team is looking for the public's help in determining the cause of the fire. If anyone saw or heard people or vehicles in the  area, or saw the fire in its earliest stages, they are asked to contact the Lanesborough Police," reads a statement from the fire marshal's office.

Any information can help determine exactly where, when, and how the fire started and all calls are confidential. The fire is being investigated by Lanesborough Fire and Police, and state fire police assigned to the office of the state fire marshal.
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Pittsfield Police Arrest Second Man In Armed Robbery Investigations

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police arrested Damian Ivas Monday night on charges related to a series of on-going armed robberies.
 
Ivas was arrested in Pittsfield on an arrest warrant for with six counts of armed robbery while masked. Officers also charged with him with assault by means of a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest for his actions against officers Monday. No officers were injured during the arrest.
 
Ivas is being held at the police station on $100,000 bail. 
 
The 40-year-old is accused of working with George Bliss for six armed robberies. Those locations include the Getty on Elm Street, Dawes Avenue Variety, Peaslee's on Wahconah, Subway on Tyler Street, Angelina's on Elm Street, and Cumberland Farms on Dalton Avenue.
 
On Friday, Police received the warrant and Ivas was considered armed and dangerous and sought the public's input on finding him. 
 
"We would like to thank all the folks that provided tips or kept on the lookout. This arrest, and the two Bliss arrests, were truly the work of the 'community,'" Police wrote on a Facebook post Monday night. 
 
The city has seen an outbreak of robberies with 12 occurring since late November. Six other cases are still under investigation.
 

Damien Ivas was arrested tonite by members of the Pittsfield Police Detective Bureau and Narcotics Unit. He was...

Posted by Pittsfield Police Department on Monday, February 1, 2016
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Great Barrington Residential School Under Investigation for Abuse

Staff Reports

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Multiple law enforcement agencies descended on the private Eagleton School on Saturday night as part of an investigation into abuse of the students there.

Under the direction of Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless and the State Police Detective Unit assigned to his office, a search warrant was executed at the residential facility involving approximately 50 state, local and federal law enforcement officers.

Five people were arrested during a weekend raid.
 
Authorities arrested Brian Puntin, 47, of Lenox Dale, Peter Meadow, 51, of Lenox, James Swift, 54, of Pittsfield, Juan Pablo Lopez-Lucas, of Pittsfield, and Debra Davis, 41, of Great Barrington. 
 
Puntin and Swift were charged at arraignment on Monday with single counts of assault and battery on a disabled person. Meadow and Lopez-Lucas were charged with single counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, and assault and battery on a disabled person. Davis is being charged with two counts of intimidation of a witness or other person.
 
These charges are slightly different from when arrested; Davis had initially also been charged with obstruction of justice and only one count of witness intimidation, and Meadow only had assault and battery on a disabled person.
 
All had been released prior to their arraignment in Southern Berkshire District Court. At their arraignment, all five had not-guilty pleas entered on their behalf. All were released on personal recognizance on the condition they stay away from Eagleton School and have no contact with the students. They will be back in court for pre-trial hearings on March 10, 2016.
 
"The investigators who carried out the execution of the search warrant Saturday night at the Eagleton School should be commended for their professionalism and sensitivity to the students’ privacy. The operation was conducted with minimum presence, and reports back to me indicated that normal operations at the school were not disrupted and the students were unaware of the law enforcement presence," wrote District Attorney David Capeless in a statement released Sunday night. 

The warrant was issued as a result of an ongoing investigation into allegations of physical and emotional abuse on students by staff at the Monterey Road school, according to a statement from the district attorney's office. Accompanying investigators were personnel from the State Department of Early Education and Care who were on scene to ensure the safety of the students and the continued, proper operation of the school.

"The health and well-being of the children at Eagleton School is of utmost importance to EEC. The Department of Early Education and Care is overseeing and actively monitoring the program’s operations and will continue to do so to ensure the children remain safe. EEC is working with law enforcement and is conducting an investigation into the program jointly with the Department of Children and Families. EEC will take further action as warranted in response to our on-going investigation," reads a statement from Thomas Weber, commissioner of the department. 

Eagleton is a private year-round residential school for boys and young men with special needs including autism and Asperger's syndrome.  

The investigation into allegations of physical and emotional abuse on students by staff was initiated by the Great Barrington Police Department in early January. According to a statement on behalf of the town Great Barrington, police will remain at the school "to ensure that the collection of evidence related to the investigation proceeds in a thorough, coordinated, and orderly manner."

Capeless praised the work of lead investigators Great Barrington Police Officer Jonathan Finnerty and State Trooper Gregory Denys.  

"Their persistence and professionalism uncovered this terrible situation and will allow us to seek justice on behalf of these vulnerable victims," he said in a statement.

Town officials said further details cannot be released at this time but that there is no danger to the general community.

"Great Barrington is home to a number of public and private schools that serve a diverse population of students across a broad spectrum, and we want the community — and the parents at home — to be aware of a police investigation that is ongoing. However, there is no danger and no threats have been made to the safety of anyone," Police Chief William Walsh Jr., in a statement. "More information will be released as soon as it is available."

Those involved in the execution of the Saturday evening search warrant include investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, state police, the Berkshire County sheriff's department and local police from the Great Barrington, Williamstown and Dalton Police departments, members of the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force. Also participating were personnel from the State Police Crime Scene Services Section and the Digital Evidence and Multimedia Section.

Editor's note: Arraignment information updated again at 4:27 p.m. on Feb. 1.

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North Adams Man Arrested For Smashing Mailboxes in Vermont

Staff Reports
STAMFORD, Vt. — A North Adams man was arrested Friday for smashing mailboxes.
 
Vermont State Police say 21-year-old Steven Barbeau is charged with two counts of unlawful mischief relating to the incident on Jan. 16. Police say troopers received reports at about 2:15 in the afternoon of several individuals "driving up and down VT Route 9 smashing mailboxes."
 
Troopers couldn't locating the individuals but a follow-up investigation led to Barbeau's arrest.
 
He was arrested and processed at the Shaftsbury Barracks on Friday and given a citation to appear in Bennington County Superior Court on Feb. 22. 
 
The case is still under investigation and addition arrests may be made, police said.
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