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State trooper faces internal affairs probe into brawl

A state trooper who has been accused of provoking a violent brawl while assigned to Vice President Joe Biden’s security detail on Nantucket last Thanksgiving is still on the job while the police internal affairs unit continues to investigate.

Eric Gahagan, a State Police bomb technician, was reassigned immediately after the Nov. 24, incident in which he allegedly instigated several fights that left members of the Air Force, also assigned to Biden’s detail, bloodied and bruised.

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Nantucket police have not brought criminal charges in the case, but State Police officials said that if the allegations made by the airmen are true, Gahagan will face disciplinary action.

“The investigation will consider any allegedly aggravating factors, including if he was the instigator,” said Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio, adding that the investigation will soon be complete.

“The actions as alleged in the report are reprehensible and not in keeping with the ideals of the Mass. State Police,” he said. “We will investigate all the facts and circumstances of the incident in their totality to determine the truth about what happened and act accordingly.”

Fox News, which first reported the fight, described it as one of at least three altercations on Nantucket involving Secret Service agents and other members of the security teams that accompanied the president or vice president on vacations to the islands. Fox reported earlier in the week that some Martha’s Vineyard residents said Secret Service agents caroused and threw wild parties when the president and his family vacationed on the island.

According to the Nantucket police report, the Nov. 24 incident began just after midnight at the Rose and Crown nightclub when Gahagan, who was there with two members of Biden’s security team, accused the airmen of taking photos of him dancing with female Secret Service agent Yumi Kim.

The airmen, Michael Valeich, John Tran, and Lucas Wiemer, told police they were not taking photos and did not know until later that Gahagan and his friends were also part of the vice president’s security team.

Gahagan allegedly approached Valeich, “punching and grabbing” him. As the club’s bouncer was escorting Gahagan and Secret Service agent Jonathan Dawes from the club, Gahagan allegedly shouted back: “Don’t go back to your hotel. We know where you’re staying,” according to the police report.

The club general manager Saturday said the fight did not erupt until after the men left the club.

“They were in the bar and had words,” said Debba Pitcock. “We asked them to leave and they did. Whatever happened physically transpired after their being in here.”

Minutes later, the fight resumed when the airmen, returning to their hotel, ran into Gahagan and Dawes again in the street. Gahagan and Dawes allegedly punched the airmen in the face, causing “visible damage,” the police report said.

The groups were separated again, but as the airmen headed to their hotel, they heard Gahagan yelling and the sound of running footsteps behind them, they said. Valeich told police Gahagan attacked him again.

The next day, the alleged victims reported the attack to Nantucket police, who noted that Valeich had two black eyes and several contusions on his head. He told police he also chipped a front tooth during the fight. Wiemer had a cut over his eye

Valeich told police that he, Tran, and Wiemer, had asked each other if they could have done anything to prevent the fight. They concluded they had no control over the events.

“[Valeich] said that he was very upset . . . and spent some time talking with his family and friends about it,” wrote police. “He added that it troubled him that someone who was as angry as Gahagan should probably not be a police officer.”

Police questioned Dawes and read him his rights, but he refused to speak without a lawyer.

The police report contains no statement from Gahagan, who apparently also refused to answer questions. He could not be reached for comment.

Andrea Estes can be reached at estes@globe.com.
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