The New Hampshire attorney general is launching an investigation after video surfaced Wednesday of police in Nashua punching a suspect who had dropped to his knees and surrendered following a high-speed chase that began in Central Massachusetts.
"We will be investigating to determine what force was used, by whom, and if it was appropriate under the law," Jeffery Strelzin, a senior assistant attorney general, said in an e-mail Wednesday night.
Officials identified the suspect as Richard Simone, 50, of Worcester, who was wanted out of Holden, Mass., on assault and larceny charges. The pursuit began there shortly after 4 p.m.
In the video footage shot by media helicopters overhead, Simone is seen slowly getting out of a pickup truck in Nashua, as officers close in with guns drawn. Once Simone drops to his knees, the officers rush toward him, and at least two are seen punching him repeatedly.
Nashua police ultimately took Simone into custody for booking, officials said. None of the officers were named, and it was not clear whether those who punched Simone were from the Nashua police, or if they were Massachusetts or New Hampshire state troopers.
Officials did not say whether Simone was injured.
The office of Attorney General Joseph Foster announced the investigation after Governor Maggie Hassan had called for a review.
"The governor is aware of the situation and we've reached out to the Departments of Safety and Justice," Ricki Eshman, a spokeswoman for Governor Maggie Hassan, said in a statement. "All New Hampshire public safety officials are held to the highest standards, and the governor expects this will be fully investigated."
David Procopio, a Massachusetts State Police spokesman, said in an e-mail that any actions by Massachusetts troopers in the incident will be reviewed by the agency.
He said troopers from the Commonwealth "were in a secondary position for most if not all of the pursuit of a wanted suspect and were present at the apprehension. We will review the apprehension, including whether the level of force used was appropriate."
Nashua police and New Hampshire State Police could not be reached for comment on the incident Wednesday night.
Procopio said the video "appears to show [a Massachusetts State Police] trooper involved in the actual apprehension, but we will not make any conclusive statements until we conduct our internal review, including a detailed review of all available video and relevant interviews."
He said State Police would conduct their standard review of whether the agency adhered to its pursuit protocols, as well as a review of "the actual apprehension, as the video appears to show a use of force against the suspect. That review will investigate whether the level of force used was appropriate given the totality of the circumstances."
Police in Hudson, N.H., said in a statement that they joined the chase in their town at about 5 p.m., when Simone's vehicle "struck a utility pole on School Street near the fire station. The pursuit then continued into Nashua over the Veteran's Bridge. At that time, we ended our involvement with the pursuit. No Hudson Police Department officers were involved with the pursuit into Nashua or with the apprehension of the suspect."
Hudson police said part of School Street was closed while workers from Eversource repaired the damaged utility pole.
Simone faces charges in Massachusetts of larceny, failure to stop, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, according to Procopio. It was not clear Wednesday when he will be arraigned.
It also was not known whether he had a lawyer, and his family could not be reached for comment.
The video surfaced at a time when police violence against civilians has been a flashpoint nationwide, after a series of controversial deaths of suspects after violent incidents with officers in Missouri, South Carolina, New York, and elsewhere.
Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said in a statement that the force "used at the time the suspect appeared to be surrendering was significant. We expect that there will be a thorough independent investigation to determine whether the force used was reasonable and proportional."
In a follow-up statement, Procopio provided additional details of the pursuit that spanned several communities in Massachusetts and the Granite State. He said Simone initially failed to stop for police in Holden shortly after 4 p.m.
A State Police cruiser joined the pursuit as the truck fled onto Interstate 190 northbound and then Route 117 in Lancaster, "where the MSP cruiser was directed to terminate its involvement in the pursuit per departmental policy," Procopio said.
Troopers rejoined the pursuit when Simone returned to I-190, and he later continued on to Route 2 in Leominster and then Interstate 495 northbound in Littleton.
"The suspect vehicle continued making abrupt lane changes as the suspect continued to try to evade capture," Procopio wrote.
Simone then sped through Chelmsford and crossed the Tyngsborough Bridge into Hudson, N.H., where local police and New Hampshire troopers joined the chase, according to Procopio.
"The suspect vehicle then took several local roads to reach Route 111 eastbound, exited onto local streets where it was involved in a crash near the town hall, but continued to flee," Procopio said. "The suspect vehicle entered Nashua, N.H., continued onto several local streets and ultimately came to a stop on Hughey Street in a residential neighborhood in Nashua."
Procopio said that in addition to the Massachusetts charges, Simone would face separate charges in New Hampshire, but further details were not available Wednesday night.