NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Joseph C. Thompson, 60, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges related to a fatal collision on July 20, 2018.
He is charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation and a marked lanes violation in the death of Steven Fortier, 49.
Thompson, director of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, was arraigned in Northern Berkshire District Court and released on personal recognizance. A pretrial conference was set for Aug. 9.
According to police reports made available Wednesday, Fortier was southbound on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle at about 10 p.m. when he collided with Thompson's northbound Audi sport utility vehicle.
Thompson and his passenger, Jodi Joseph, the museum's director of communications, told police that they were on Church Street and approaching south of the fork with Ashland Street when they saw a single headlight in their northbound lane. Thompson said he veered into the southbound lane in an attempt to avoid the motorcycle but believed Fortier corrected his direction and re-entered his lane, striking the Audi.
The charges were brought after the completion of the investigation and a show-cause hearing in May before Clerk-Magistrate Kenneth Chaffee, who determined there was sufficient evidence to move forward with criminal charges.
"Because intent is not an essential element of vehicular homicide, the defense of accident is not available," he wrote. "In hindsight, Thompson's choice to maneuver his vehicle into the southbound lane, rather than stop or drive elsewhere, resulted in the collision and the death of Fortier."
Toxicology tests show that Fortier had a blood alcohol level of .28 percent, or more than four times the legal limit. Chaffee wrote that did "not excuse the defendant's conduct."
The police report states that after the collision, Thompson told Joseph to call 911 and, after getting out of the car to check on Fortier with other unidentified people, returned to the Audi and drove with a flat tire back into the northbound lane and parked it in the breakdown lane with its hazard lights on.
Police arrived within a few minutes and found Fortier still alive but face down on the pavement in the northbound lane with serious injuries, including head and facial trauma. He had been wearing an open face helmet; his helmet, boots and vest were scattered with the debris from the collision.
Two witnesses at the scene told police they thought Thompson had tried to flee the scene. One said Thompson had attempted to move the Audi "in a rapid manner" and that he had told him not to leave. Neither could clarify their impressions to state Trooper Zachary Wood other than "they believed by the way he attempted to operate the Audi he was trying to leave."
Officer David Sherman, who wrote the report, said it appeared that Fortier had collided with the "A" pillar on the passenger side of the Audi, the part of the frame where the door attaches to the front end. There was heavy damage to the passenger door, frame and windshield as well as the flat tire.
The police determined that Thompson had crossed the double yellow line and was in the southbound lane at the time of the collision.
Mass MoCA Director Facing Charges in Fatal Crash
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is being charged in the fatal accident last year that killed an Adams man.
According to reports in The Berkshire Eagle on Thursday, Joseph Thompson is scheduled to be arraigned on June 19 on a charge of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation in Northern Berkshire District Court.
A 2001 Harley-Davidson motorcycle driven by Steven Fortier, 49, of Adams collided with Thompson's 2015 Audi on Church Street near the intersection with Ashland. Fortier was heading south and Thompson north the evening of July 20, 2018.
A show-cause hearing was held on May 9. Police Chief Jason Wood told The Eagle that the department had waited on the state police reconstruction report before determining whether to move forward with charges.
Thompson's attorney, Timothy Shugrue, says his client is not guilty of the misdemeanor, noting to The Eagle that it had been confirmed by police that Thompson had not had alcohol or was in use of his phone.
"I'm very confident that he's innocent and I'm very confident it's going to be found that way," he told The Eagle.
Fortier had been at the Mohawk Tavern the night of the accident and his condition, according to witnesses, along with several unrelated incidents regarding overserving, led to the bar's hours being reduced for several months last fall.
Hazmat Called in for Medical Incident at Opioid Treatment Center
Spectrum Health Systems was evacuated this morning after a nurse fell ill.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Fire Department and hazardous materials team are investigating a medical incident at Spectrum Health Systems.
Police Sgt. Albert Zoito said a report had been received around 11 on Thursday morning that one of the Spectrum employees had fallen ill after coming in contact with "something that someone brought in."
"A nurse that worked here was subjected to something that someone brought in and she is now feeling ill," he said. "She came in contact with something that was making her feel ill, apparently, and reported that came in from somebody."
Fire Chief Stephen Meranti said the woman received medical attention, the facility has been evacuated and the HAZMAT Technical Operations Module was called. The facility is an opioid treatment center that offers a range of services including methadone.
"We have evacuated the building … and we have hazmat here looking into the situation," he said. "There is no one else in the building, there are not other symptoms, and it seems to be an isolated incident."
Meranti said hazmat was surveying the building to rule out that any conditions within the building caused the illness such as a carbon monoxide leak or an oxygen deficiency.
He added that it could also be an individual medical condition separate from any issue within the building and although they were leaning toward this scenario, they will not know for sure until hazmat have finished their sweep and they have heard back from the emergency room.
Update at 5 p.m.: "Really nothing has changed," Meranti said. "They cleared the building and at this point, the police are still following up on it and questioning the patient but it appears to be a medical condition."
First-Responders Deal With Multi-Vehicle Accidents in Adams, North Adams
A three-car accident forced detours for drivers heading north on Commercial Street.
ADAMS, Mass. — Emergency responders in Adams and North Adams dealt with two motor vehicle accidents on Tuesday afternoon.
The first occurred about 4 p.m. in front of the McDonald's restaurant in Adams and involved three motor vehicles headed north on Commercial Street leading up to the light.
The vehicles were a gray Ford 150 extend cab, a dark blue Chevrolet Traverse sport utility vehicle and a gray Jeep Renegade sedan, in that order.
The truck incurred damage to its front end, knocking off the front bumper; the SUV's rear hatch was dented in and it received minor damage to its front end; the Jeep's rear bumper and hatchback was damaged. Two people were taken from the scene by ambulance, including the driver of the SUV whom firefighters and EMTs took some time to remove from the vehicle.
The truck was towed by Al's Service Center and the SUV by Dean's Repair Shop. Police, firefighters, Adams Ambulance and North Berkshire EMS responded to the scene. Traffic was diverted for nearly an hour with north bound vehicles detoured through the Hoosac Valley Elementary School driveway to Liberty Street.
In North Adams, a van and a coupe collided on Ashland Street in front of Pizza Works at about 4:43 p.m. The blue Dodge van appeared to be exiting the pizzeria parking lot and the Chevrolet Cavalier was southbound. Both vehicles incurred significant front-end damage to no appeared to be injured.
The van was towed by Cariddi Auto and the Chevy by Mohawk Auto Wrecking. City police and firefighters along with North Berkshire EMS responded to the scene. Traffic was diverted between Blackinton Avenue and Davenport Street for about 40 minutes.
Two Arrested After Manhunt
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The two men who led authorities on a manhunt on Tuesday are facing a number of charges.
Police say Arnold Chapman and Shannon Brown were arrested after leading police on a lengthy chase spanning from North Adams to Pittsfield. The incident started when the two allegedly attempted to return some $2,000 worth of stolen merchandise to the North Adams Walmart. They fled in a black pickup truck with Florida plates as North Adams Police were responding to the store.
The suspects fled shortly after 2:15 p.m. as police from North Adams, Adams, and Cheshire chased the vehicle. The drivers then cut over the Connector Road in Lanesborough to Route 7, where the Massachusetts State Police and Pittsfield Police joined the search to find the suspects.
The vehicle was abandoned on West Housatonic Street, in a parking lot across from the Lebanon Avenue intersection. The two men then got a taxi from there to the Enterprise car-rental service on East Street. A trooper responded there and Brown allegedly assaulted her, broke free, and ran toward Cove street, and then onto Root Place.
State and Pittsfield Police and deputies from the sheriff's department launched a wide-spanning manhunt for the suspects around the Elm Street and East Street areas. The search included K9 units and a police helicopter.
At about 4:30 p.m., officers found and arrested Brown on Root Place. Brown allegedly gave the name of "Alstin Guice" and had a Florida driver's license in that name but troopers were later able to identify him as Brown through fingerprinting.
The 33-year-old Brown, from Tampa, Fla., had $4,210 in cash on hand. He was charged with assault and battery on a police officer, providing a false name to police, and as a fugitive from justice.
Police also say Brown was the subject of a warrant in Phoenix, Ariz., for charges of fraudulent schemes, artifices, and theft. Authorities in Arizona intend to ask for his rendition to face those charges.
Chapman was later found in the same area suffering from hypothermia and shock after allegedly going into the Housatonic River while running from police. He was transported to Berkshire Medical Center and is still being treated as of Wednesday afternoon.
Pittsfield Police say the two suspects were involved in similar scams at the Walmart in Pittsfield, for $3,700, and in Hadley, for $2,600.
Chapman also had a warrant in the state of Florida on charges of fleeing law enforcement at a high rate of speed, habitual traffic offender, and leaving the scene of property damage. Locally he will be facing a single count of larceny by false pretense, over $1,200, and additional charges may be forthcoming.
The State Police brought in a helicopter to help search for the men.
Original Post: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 5:46 p.m.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A high-speed chase and manhunt throughout the county tied up local law enforcement for hours on Tuesday.
Pittsfield Police and State Police confirmed they were helping search for two men wanted by North Adams Police but opted to withhold comment until they had more information.
North Adams Police were still investigating the situation when asked for comment and said information may not be available for hours.
According to the scanner reports, however, state and local police were chasing two men in a black pickup truck with Florida plates southbound on Route 8 from North Adams shortly after 1 in the afternoon. The men reportedly fled after an incident from the Super Walmart in North Adams, although that could not be confirmed.
The men evaded authorities all the way to West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield, where they then ditched the truck.
The pair then allegedly caught a cab and went back to the center of Pittsfield. Officers tracked the suspects onto Root Place and a manhunt ensued throughout a large portion of the Elm Street area. The State Police brought in the airwing to search for the men and Pittsfield Police had a K9 unit.
The search continued throughout the day. Both men appear to have apprehended but authorities have not yet confirmed that fact.
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