Morganne Sterl with K-9 Summit

Conway Police officer Morganne Sterl gives a command to new police K-9 Summit at the Conway police station in January. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

CONWAY — A local woman was recently indicted by a Carroll County Superior Court Grand Jury for allegedly trying to take an officer’s gun during a melee in May.

The incident began May 4 when police were called to the Conway Post Office for a report of a suicidal woman, 31, of Conway. (The Sun is withholding the woman’s name due to concerns for her mental health.)

The grand jury returned the “taking a firearm from a law enforcement officer” indictment on July 16. The indictment is filed as a Class-B felony, which is punishable by 3 1/2 to seven years in prison and a $4,000 fine. The indictment means the grand jury felt there was enough evidence to bring the case to trial.

Patrol officer Morganne Sterl and Sgt. Russell McLauchlan, who recently retired, responded to the call which came in at 12:41 p.m., according to the probable cause statement Sterl wrote.

After a foot chase, Sterl briefly lost sight of the woman but then ended up seeing her on the top staircase leading into an apartment on Main Street.

Sterl was able to catch up and attempted to put the woman in handcuffs who was allegedly resisting. Sterl said she told the woman that she was being detained.

“She argued this and told me she needed to go to the hospital,” said Sterl  adding at one point the woman seemed to calm down and then tried to escape. “As I went to handcuff her, (the woman) simultaneously pulled away from me and attempted to jump over the railing of the third floor deck, I quickly grabbed her by the right arm, as she was hanging over the deck, and pulled her back over the railing and onto the deck.”

According to Sterl the woman kept trying to resist and move toward the railing. Sterl alleged the woman began punching Sterl in the back of the head and knocked off Sterl’s sun glasses and radio mic in the process.

McLachlan ran up the stairs and began trying to separate Sterl and threw the woman. Sterl said the woman tried to grab the waist “lead” around Sterl’s belt causing her to fall towards the woman who in turn fell against McLauchlan. Sterl is the police department’s K-9 officer and a waist lead is equipment K9 officers use.

“As I was removing her hand from my waist lead, she grabbed the handle on my duty gun and tried pulling back on it, appearing to be trying to remove it from its holster,” said Sterl. “I directed her to let go of my gun, and manipulated one of her fingers backward in order to remove her hand from my firearm.”

During the altercation, Sterl said the woman was kicking at her and McLachlan and she landed at least two kicks on McLauchlan’s right arm.

The officers put the woman in McLauchlan’s cruiser and took her to the police station. Once there, Brewster Ambulance personnel evaluated her. Then a Carroll County Sheriff’s deputy took her to Memorial Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

McLauchlan was treated at Memorial Hospital for the “open wounds” he sustained when the woman allegedly dug her fingernails into his left forearm. He also reportedly had “abrasions” from the woman’s work boots.

The woman is known to have Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. (MRSA is very contagious and can be spread through direct contact with a person who has the infection.)

Sterl said she had bruised knees and didn’t need medical attention.

The woman is also charged with three counts of Class A misdemeanor assault on law enforcement officer for allegedly kicking and scratching McLauchlan and punching Sterl. These misdemeanors carry prison sentences of up to five years and fines of $2,000. The grand jury determined there was enough evidence that the misdemeanors should go to trial as well.

Judge Amy Ignatius ordered the woman held in jail on May 5 but the bail order seems to allow her to go to the New Hampshire Hospital or an inpatient treatment facility.

On that day she waived her arraignment through he attorney Jesse Friedman.

She is to have a status conference on Aug. 6.

At the time, of this altercation, the woman had been on bail for charge of resisting arrest that allegedly occurred in March.

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