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Great Barrington Police Officer Killed in Friday Morning Crash

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — An off-duty Great Barrington police officer died early Friday morning after his pickup truck hit a tree on Prospect Hill Road in Stockbridge.

Stockbridge Police Chief Darrell Fennelly said 25-year-old Ryan A. Storti of Muddy Brook Circle was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which was reported shortly after 2 a.m. According to a statement from the Great Barrington Police Department, Storti was alone and on his way home when he lost control of his truck and struck a tree on the side of the road.

The investigation is being conducted by members of the Stockbridge Police Department with assistance from the Massachusetts State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section.

"Officer Storti was a wonderful young man and police officer," Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh said in a statement. "He was everything we wanted in a police officer and was part of our future. We're all struggling right now as we also try to support Ryan's family. Please keep them all in your thoughts."

Storti, a 2008 graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School, had been a reserve officer in Great Barrington until being appointed to a permanent position in 2015. He graduated from Berkshire Community College and from the Western Massachusetts Police Academy in Springfield.

"Officer Storti was a rising star for our police department. I am devastated to learn of his sudden death," Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said in a statement. "This is a tragedy and an enormous loss for the Police, our Town and the entire community. Our hearts go out to Ryan's family and all who loved him and worked with him every day in public service. He will forever be in our thoughts and prayers."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

     

Pittsfield Man Charged in Break-in, Stealing Pickup Truck

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — A Pittsfield man has been arrested in connection with a break-in at a Stockbridge Road restaurant after leading police on a chase across several South County towns.

Chief William Walsh said the Great Barrington Police Department, working collaboratively with neighboring police, arrested the man on Wednesday.

Nathan P. Lopes, 22, of Tyler Street has been charged with:

• Breaking and entering into a building during the nighttime to commit a felony
• Larceny over $250
• Possession of a stolen vehicle

The arrest of Lopes is part of an ongoing investigation into break-ins and larcenies from several buildings and businesses in multiple communities late Tuesday evening into Wednesday, including Egremont and West Stockbridge. Additional charges may be forthcoming.

At approximately 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Egremont Police received a call from county dispatch of a possible break-in at a house on Seekonk Cross Road. At the same time, Egremont Sgt. Hans Carlsen was investigating a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot of Mom's Restaurant on Route 23 in Egremont.

That officer informed dispatch that Seekonk Cross Road was located in Great Barrington. Great Barrington Police Officer Victor Zucco was unable to find the house on Seekonk Cross Road, and it is now believed that the operator of the suspicious vehicle at Mom's made a fake call to thwart police.

While searching for the house break-in, Zucco observed taillights in the distance and attempted to catch up with the vehicle. The vehicle, a pickup truck, kept driving away and Zucco lost sight of it. Both Zucco and Carlsen continued to search for the truck and crossed into Alford. While on East Road, Carlsen saw the truck in front of him going at a high rate of speed and he attempted to stop it. The truck crashed into a tree whereupon the operator fled on foot while throwing away wads of cash.

The suspect, identified as Lopes was captured, subdued, and placed in handcuffs. He was then transported to Fairview Hospital for minor facial injuries. The truck was a total loss.

State police from the Lee Barracks were called to investigate the accident as the incident was now in West Stockbridge.

Lopes was found to be intoxicated and operating the vehicle with a suspended license, and he will face additional charges from the state police.

Around 9 a.m., police at the accident scene in West Stockbridge notified Great Barrington Police that they found receipts from the Xicohtencatl Mexican Restaurant on Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington. Officer Adam Carlotto went to the closed restaurant and found an open window and fresh footprints. The owners later confirmed that they were missing money.

Police also recovered a large amount of cash, some beer and more receipts from Xicohtencatl while inventorying Lopes' possessions after his arrest.

Early Wednesday morning, a Pittsfield resident called the Pittsfield Police Department to report his truck stolen. The truck turned out to be the same truck that Lopes was operating.

Police from Great Barrington, Pittsfield, Egremont, and state police and the State Police Crime Scene Services Section all worked together Wednesday on the investigation, which remains ongoing.

Lopes is being held on $7,500 bail at the Great Barrington lockup and will be arraigned in Southern Berkshire District Court on Thursday morning.

     

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.

     

Great Barrington Police Investigate Motor Vehicle Accident

Great Barrington Police

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. – Police, Fire Department and Southern Berkshire Ambulance responded to a motor vehicle accident with multiple injuries on Wednesday night on State Road in front of Plaza Package.

The accident, which was reported at 5:01 p.m., involved a 2003 Subaru operated by Ronald J. Fonte, 44, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and a 2001 Audi operated by Dennis G. Gibbons, 31, of South Egremont.

Fonte was uninjured in the crash; however, Gibbons and his two passengers required treatment at area hospitals. Gibbons and passenger Jeremy Martel, 36, of Sheffield were transported to Fairview Hospital by Southern Berkshire Ambulance. Gibbbons' other passenger, Cody Kickery, 26, of Great Barrington, was transported by Southern Berkshire Ambulance and County Ambulance paramedics to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield.

No information on their status is available at this time.

Initial investigation by Officer Daniel Bartini revealed that Fonte attempted to turn left into Plaza Package in front of Gibbons' vehicle, resulting in a head-on collision. At this time, no charges have been filed and the accident remains under investigation.

Anyone who may have witnessed the crash is requested to contact police at 413-528-0306.

     

Patrick Names Former Pittsfield Solicitor For Judgeship

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Former City Solicitor Michael McCarthy was nominated by the governor Friday as an associate justice of Southern Berkshire District Court.

McCarthy is an associate with the city firm of George, DeGregorio, Massimiano & McCarthy since 1989. Prior to that, he was the city's solicitor for two years, assistant district attorney for five years and an assistant district attorney in Portland, Maine, for one year. He is a graduate of Assumption College and the University of Maine Law School.

McCarthy will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge James B. McElroy. He was previously nominated for the post in August 2012.

Secretary of Public Safety Mary Heffernan was also nominated as Circuit Justice.

"I also am pleased to re-nominate Michael J. McCarthy to serve on the bench in Berkshire County. I thank both of these nominees for their commitment to the fair administration of justice and their willingness to serve the Commonwealth in these challenging new roles," Gov. Deval Patrick said in a prepared statement Friday.

Additionally, the governor resubmitted four pending judicial nominations to the Governor's Council in Geraldine S. Hines as an associate justice of the Appeals Court; and Angel Kelly Brown, Brian A. Davis and Robert B. Gordon as associate justices of the Superior Court. The nominees are being resubmitted because the Governor Council’s term ended before they were considered.

     
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