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Pittsfield Investigating Four Fires; One Individual Detained

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters spent Tuesday morning fighting a series of what appears to have been intentionally lit fires in the Morningside neighborhood.
Deputy Chief Daniel Garner released a report saying four fires were started in the early hours and that an individual has been detained by police.
The morning started with Engine 2 responding to a fire inside of the apartment building at 40 Perrine Ave. at about 2:30 and was quickly followed by two outside rubbish fires on the nearby Plunkett Street and a fully involved vehicle fire on Kellogg Street.
"All fires were brought under control quickly and there were no injuries," Garner wrote.
The first fire was in a common hallway of Perrine and Engine 2 "made quick work and ensured extinguishment." Engine 3 was subsequently dispatched to 76 Plunkett St. for an outside fire.
"They found household rubbish ablaze in front of the residence. Subsequently, they found a similar fire in front of 72 Plunkett as well," Garner wrote.
"An area search found a fully involved motor vehicle fire in close proximity to the residence of 41/43 Kellogg Street."
All of the engines, Tower 1, and a command vehicle responded to the vehicle fire. Garner also reports that state and Pittsfield police have detained an individual in connection to the fires.
Pittsfield Police say Jeffrey Benoit, 26, of Hinsdale was arrested and will be arraigned in district court Tuesday.
The Fire Department and the Police Department are both investigating the incidents.

Pittsfield Man Shot During Altercation On Lincoln Street

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A man was shot in the early hours of Saturday morning after an altercation at Lach's Lounge.
According to police, officers were dispatched to the area of Pleasant and Lincoln Streets at about 1:28 a.m. Saturday morning for a large disturbance. As officers were en route, dispatch received reports of shots fired. Upon arrival, police found a large group and a victim with a gunshot wound in the abdomen. Police rendered aid until EMS arrived and transported the victim to Berkshire Medical Center.
Police say the injury does not appear to be life-threatening. Police said the altercation began at Lach's Lounge earlier in the morning. Witnesses told police that the victim, his girlfriend, and other friends and family were at Lach's Lounge earlier in the night. A verbal altercation took place there with the alleged shooter and his girlfriend at about 1:13 a.m.
The victim and his friends left Lach's Lounge and returned to their Lincoln Street home. The suspect and his girlfriend then arrived and engaged in further altercation. Police said the suspect fired three shots, striking the victim and then left in a silver vehicle.
No arrests have been made so far and the investigation is still active and ongoing, police said. Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Timothy Koenig at 413-448-9705.

Three Utility Poles Fall As Result of Pittsfield Car Crash

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
The gold car was seen by witnesses driving into the poles as it crossed the median.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A mid-day accident ripped out three utility poles from the center median of West Street.
Police refused to comment on the accident but witnesses at the scene said a gold Pontiac sped over the median near the intersection of West Street and Center Street.
The car then proceeded toward Park Square, taking out a total of three metal utility poles along the median, and ultimately was stopped when it crashed into parked cars parked along the westbound lane.
The Pontiac suffered damaged to both the front, hood, and roof. The driver's side door of a gray Toyota was caved in, as was the front bumper of another Toyota. All three vehicles were towed from the scene.
On scene, officers searched the Pontiac and pulled a number of items, which appeared to be drug paraphernalia, from the vehicle. The driver was placed in handcuffs and placed in the back of a cruiser.
City workers also responded to the scene quickly and a half-dozen trucks or so were on scene cleaning up the debris from the poles. Eversource was also on scene. The poles held streetlights and it is unclear what, if any, other utilities were supported by the poles.

Hazmat Team Finds No Threat In Package Delivered To Pittsfield Police

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
The hazmat team found no dangerous materials in the package.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A hazardous materials team found no threat in a suspicious package sent to the police station.
The District 5 Hazmat Team responded to headquarters Wednesday morning shortly before 11 to investigate a FedEx-delivered package that contained a medical journal hinting of virus dissemination.
By noon, the team found the package was not a danger.
"Monday afternoon a package was delivered to the Pittsfield Police Department headquarters. It didn't cause any undue alarm but once the package had been opened, the staff realized there was some inconsistencies with the addresses — both the delivery address and the alleged address of the sender," Police Chief Michael Wynn said.
The package originated from what appears to be a fake address out of Colorado, according to police, and was addressed to a nonexistent receptionist with the Pittsfield Police Department.
The address for the Police Department was also wrong. Inside, responders found newspapers, periodicals and the medical journal. The concern was that it may contain a powered substance or virus, the chief said.
"Shoved in the bottom of the box was an excerpt from a medical journal on virus dissemination and transmission and given the climate and culture we are working in, we thought it merited the extra precaution," Wynn said.
The package sat in a vacant office in the station for two days before being examined. Wynn said because of that, the station was not evacuated. 
"They found nothing so we never suspended operations," Wynn said.
The Fire Department hosts the hazmat team, which is staffed by firefighters from both North Adams and Pittsfield. The Pittsfield Fire Department also sent an engine company to the scene. 
"The team is originally designed for hazmat response and, through the years, our role has evolved into handling these bio, nuclear and chemical possibilities," Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said. "The team is well versed in these kinds of operations."
The team quickly examined the package on scene and found no reason for alarm. The team has a dedicated vehicle with a number of assets to investigate such a situation. The response was a Tier 1, which means limited resources were used for the examination.
"They were confident that nothing was in the package," Czerwinski said. 

Pittsfield Shooting Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to Murder

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The suspect in the shooting murder of 18-year-old Keenan S. Pellot Jr. has has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

Thomas Lee Newman Jr., 18, was arraigned on Monday afternoon in Berkshire Superior Court before Judge John Agostini.

Newman entered not-guilty pleas to single counts of murder, armed assault with intent to commit murder and illegal possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun.

He is accused of killing Pellot and seriously wounding a 17-year-old boy in a midday shooting on Tyler Street on July 31, 2015.

The shooting set off a massive manhunt for Newman, who was being described as "armed and dangerous." He was arrested two days later in Utica, N.Y., and declined to fight extradition back to Pittsfield.

The investigation is being conducted by members of the Pittsfield Police Department, state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office and state police Crime Scene Services and Firearms Identification sections.

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