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Superior Court Briefs: Sept. 11 - Sept. 14

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Monday, September 11.
 
Robert Brady III, 35, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and conspiracy to violate drug laws.
 
He was released on $500 bail pending sentencing on Sept. 28. The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant on Burbank Street in Pittsfield on April 14, 2016.
 
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Thursday, September 14.
 
John Despard, 34, of Pittsfield had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf on a single count of trafficking in heroin. He was released on $2,000 bail. 
 
The charges stem from a motor vehicle stop in Pittsfield on August 15, 2016.
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Pittsfield Police Investigate Reports of Man Trying to Grab Women Off Street

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police are seeking information in the wake of several reports of a man acting aggressively toward, or possibly assaulting, women. 
 
The incidents may be related as a number of witnesses have provided similar descriptions of a man calling to them to get into his vehicle. Some have reported two men in the car. 
 
The suspect is said to dark-skinned, standing about 6-feet-tall, with short hair and accent described as possibly Jamaican or African. The individual was seen operating, or as a passenger of, an older tan or silver Toyota Camry (or similar vehicle).
 
In one case, a victim reports that the individual described above tried to physically force her into the vehicle, but she was able to strike him and flee.
 
The Pittsfield Police asks that anyone who may know the identity of the above man, or who has knowledge of recent similar cases, to contact the Detective Bureau at 413-448-9705. Tips can be left anonymously by telephone, texted to Tip411 or via the Facebook page.
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Pittsfield Fire Snuffs Out Blaze On Lakeway Drive

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two people have been displaced from their Lakeway Drive home after a fire caused heat and smoke damage Wednesday evening.
 
Deputy Fire Chief Raymond Tart said firefighters responded to 61 Lakeway Drive shortly before 6 p.m. There they found smoke coming from the first floor and quickly snuffed it out. There were two occupants, both of whom made it out of the home safely.
 
"It appears it was objects and not the room [that burned]. There is no structural damage at all. There is fire damage to the contents and heat and smoke damage on the first floor," Tart said.
 
One of the occupants is on oxygen and the tanks could have posed a hazard. But, firefighters made a quick stop and halted the fire from spreading. Tart said he believes the fire is accidental but isn't sure exactly what started it.
 
"The fire started in the central bedroom. We are unsure of the cause at this point. We have an investigator called in," he said.
 
There were no firefighter injuries and, within the hour, the engines left the scene. Lakeway was closed at Onota and Acorn streets for the duration.
 
Tart praised the work of the firefighters.
 
"It was awesome. The fire is out and we are going home soon. They made short work of it," Tart said as the firefighters wrapped up the hoses used to extinguish the blaze.
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Dog Takes Bite Out of Lanesborough Thief's Pants

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Good boy.
 
A German shepherd thwarted a would-be robber in the Balance Rock and Potter Mountain Road neighborhood Monday night. Police say there has been somewhat of a rash of attempted break-ins in the neighborhood, with three reported in the last two days. 
 
However, at one home, the cat burglar met his foe — the dog. 
 
Police say the homeowner returned home to find his dog outside and a back door open. Later, he found remnants of what appears to be someone's ripped pants.
 
Despite the doggo scaring the burglar from one home, police say at another the perpetrator was able to steal a number of items — exactly what items isn't being revealed because the case is under investigation. 
 
On Tuesday, police received another report of a homeowner in the same area returning and hearing somebody upstairs. The homeowner didn't find anyone but did find a garage door open.
 
Police are reminding people to lock their windows and doors and if they see something, say something because they'd "rather investigate suspicious activity that turns out to be harmless than to miss an opportunity to potentially catch someone in the act of committing a crime."

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White Terrace Apartment Fire Ruled Accidental

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Update: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 10:52 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. - Fire officials say the fire was caused by a battery charging on a bed and then catching the mattress on fire.

Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said the electronic device set the mattress on fire. Doors were left open, allowing the fire to quickly spread to other units. From there, tenants on the third floor evacuated, leaving doors open and the fire expanded from there.
 
Czerwinski asks residents to remember to close doors to help restrict fire expansion.
 
Czerwinski said the building is "heavily damaged" but is still be assessed. 
 
In total four people were transported to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment from the fire. all of the injuries were minor and no one was admitted. Only one of those were treated for injuries related to the fire while the other three were transported for minor issues not related to the fire.
 


A pet rabbit is among pets rescued from the building. 

Original: Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 9:26 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — At least two dozen people were forced from their White Terrace homes when their building caught fire. 

 

 
The middle building of the three structures that make up White Terrace Apartments off North Street, two blocks from Berkshire Medical Center, was fully involved with flames and smoke pouring from the third floor. 
 
The reports of a fire came in around 6:42 p.m. and firefighters and equipment from Dalton Hinsdale, Lanesborough and Lenox responded at the scene or to cover the Pittsfield station. 
 
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said firefighters found heavy fire coming from the third floor on the front windows and west side of 6 White Terrace. 
 
"This was going pretty good," he said. "When I left my home in west Pittsfield, I had heavy smoke showing on West Housatonic Street."
 
Firefighters attacking the blaze also found a tenant out on the east side fire escape who was rescued and taken to Berkshire Medical Center. 
 
All 25 occupants of the dozen apartments in the building were evacuated. Czerwinski said it wasn't clear if the other two buildings had tenants at this time. 
 
Mayor Linda Tyer, speaking to reporters at the scene shortly after 9 p.m., said she did not have details of the blaze she felt comfortable sharing at that point. She did, however, say the residents evacuated were being attended to.
 
"Our first concerns are the residents who have been displaced ... we've brought them down to the Senior Center so they'll be warm and have a place to feel safe and comfortable while we wait for the Red Cross," the mayor said. "We have 24-25 residents, some of them with young children, some of them with pets so there's a little bit of a process."
 
She was not aware of any serious injuries but there was, she said, "a lot of heartache."
 
The Salvation Army was also a the scene to help families displaced by the fire. People also brought pet carriers and food to help with the animals taken from the building. 
 
North Street was closed to all vehicle traffic from Linden Street to Wahconah Street as firefighters battled the blaze. 
 
Czerwinski said the cause is unknown at this point and it was hard to determine where the fire had started because it was burning on two ends and moved quickly through the building.  
 
"The construction of this building was very difficult to work with because there's a lot of void spaces and that's the same trouble we've run into with previous fires," he said. "There are a number of ways for that fire to communicate from floor to floor."
 
The fire chief recalled several times when the department had responded to fires in the grouping of apartment buildings. One about 25 years had also been pretty significant, he said. 
 
The fire attracted a crowd of at least a couple hundred people in the densely settled area. In the crowd on North Street, a number of people were seen being taken away on stretchers as smoke billowed over North Street.
 
Police Chief Michael Wynn said the bystanders had to be pushed back twice and police tape put up to mark off the street and prevent people from getting too close to where the firefighters were working. 
 
Shift officer Lt. Michael Grady had committed the entire shift to the scene was was calling for more patrols officers, Wynn said. Two came in immediately and some came in early from the midnight shift. 
 
"Any critical incident like this is going to tax our resources and we have to call additional personnel in," he said. "Plus, while the critical incident is occurring, they're still trying to answer calls in the city."
 
At one point, the force was down to three available officers and one of those was pulled to do security at the Froio Senior Center, where apartment evacuees were taken.
 
Built around the turn of the last century, the three buildings have gone through a number of renovations over the years. The latest proposal is a nearly $9 million revamping of all three buildings to create 41 market-rate apartments. 
 
Czerwinski said the department was holding the scene for the state fire marshal and police investigators to determine the cause. The department was also looking into whether the fire alarms were activated; the report apparently came in as a phone call. 
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