BARTLETT — The Bartlett police chief has refuted allegations made by a Conway man who was tased and pepper-sprayed during a traffic stop near Story Land last weekend.
Christopher Spinney, 35, of Conway claims police used excessive force and put him and his family at risk of COVID-19. He also said he’d heard that the arresting officer had been fired by the Carroll Police Department for use of force.
Bartlett Chief Christopher Keaton said all of those allegations are false.
On June 6 at around 11 a.m., Spinney was pulled over by Bartlett Police Cpl. Justin Washburn for driving a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker.
According to Keaton, Washburn asked Spinney for his license and registration and warned that failure to comply would result in being charged with disobeying a police officer. Spinney refused, and Washburn told him he was under arrest.
“The officer attempted to break the driver’s door window, and it did not break,” said Keaton. “The officer went to the passenger side of the vehicle, opened the passenger door and told the female passenger to exit the vehicle and to take the child out of the back seat, which she did.
“Then he unlocked the car doors and went to the driver’s side to take the operator into custody. The operator did not submit to arrest as he is required under N.H. law.”
Keaton said Spinney resisted, and Washburn tased him. Spinney reportedly continued to resist, so he was pepper-sprayed by Jackson Police Officer Martin Bourque, whom Washburn had radioed for backup.
Spinney was charged with disobeying an officer, resisting arrest, driving after suspension or possession of license required and uninspected motor vehicle.
Spinney was brought to Memorial Hospital in North Conway, where he was examined due to the pepper-spray. He was then was taken to Carroll County jail, where he was given personal recognizance bail and a court date of July 14.
Spinney gave the Sun a written statement that claimed no crime had been committed. He said he had “no duty to perform” for Washburn because there was no “obligation or contract” between him and the officer.
Spinney describes himself as an “American National” and that police have power over people only if they don’t dispute it.
“I don’t agree to contract with anyone in the public,” said Spinney.
Spinney also said that Washburn, “although it is unconfirmed at this point, is rumored to have been fired from the Carroll Police in Twin Mountain for excessive use of force.”
Keaton told the Sun by phone Wednesday that the rumor that Washburn had been fired is false.
“My officer has never been fired from any police department,” said Keaton, adding that if Washburn actually had a use-of-force issue he would not have been hired to serve in Bartlett.
Spinney also faulted Washburn and Bourque for not wearing a mask, saying, “Considering the Bartlett chief of police is supposed to have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and the Bartlett Police Station was shut down, we can only assume that JW in his negligence, spread COVID-19 to the entire family.”
Keaton said Wednesday that Spinney’s fears about COVID-19 are unfounded and that no Bartlett officer has COVID-19 at present and none had it as of June 6.
Keaton added that if any officer had reason to think he or she was exposed to the virus, he or she would be tested. They were all tested by the middle of May.
“We will continue to do our job the way we are supposed to, to keep everybody safe,” said Keaton.
The Sun asked American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Gilles Bissonnette about the responsibilities people have when being confronted by police. Bissonnette said that a person must submit to arrest when told that he or she is arrested or else it is considered resisting arrest. The cause of the underlying arrest may be disputed in court.
“A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when the person knowingly or purposely physically interferes with a person recognized to be a law enforcement official, including a probation or parole officer, seeking to effect an arrest or detention of the person or another, regardless of whether there is a legal basis for the arrest,” said Bissonnette.
He also said that during motor vehicle stops, a driver must give his or her name, address, date of birth and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle. A failure to do constitutes a crime. (See RSA 265:4.)
However, outside of a traffic context, citizens generally are not required to identify themselves if, for example, they are walking down the street.
A police officer may stop someone, however, if that officer has reason to believe the person is committing a crime, and the officer may request the person’s name and address.
However, the person cannot be arrested simply for refusing to provide this information. This is contained in RSA 594:2.