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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Nashua’s Campbell issues apology over duck deaths

NASHUA – State Rep. David Campbell offered an apology after striking several wild ducks with his car outside a Nashua hotel last week.

Meanwhile, Nashua police are pledging an open, thorough and impartial investigation into the matter, which unfolded late on the evening of Dec. 23 outside the main entrance of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. ...

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NASHUA – State Rep. David Campbell offered an apology after striking several wild ducks with his car outside a Nashua hotel last week.

Meanwhile, Nashua police are pledging an open, thorough and impartial investigation into the matter, which unfolded late on the evening of Dec. 23 outside the main entrance of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Campbell,
D-Nashua, issued a statement early Sunday evening addressing controversy over the episode, which was first reported in The Sunday Telegraph.

“I am deeply sorry that I accidentally ran over several wild ducks near the Crowne Plaza last Monday night,” Campbell wrote. “This occurred while some people were feeding the ducks in the roadway nearby. I know it greatly upset them, as it did me. In spite of the accusations to the contrary, this was accidental, unintentional and deeply affected me then and now.”

The incident was brought to light by retired Marine officer James Murphy, a Florida resident who was preparing to check into the hotel Monday evening when Campbell’s car collided with what he described as a pack of about 20 ducks in the road.

After flying into Manchester airport, Murphy took a shuttle to the Crowne Plaza. A group of ducks that inhabit the hotel grounds waddled up to the main entrance when he arrived, stopping beside his luggage.

Murphy said he had just tossed the ducks some crackers when he spotted Campbell’s dark sedan approaching from a side parking lot near the hotel entrance.

“All of a sudden, this 5 Series BMW comes up, it’s going about 15 miles an hour, and then when he gets to the ducks, it’s not like it even slowed down,” Murphy said. “It just crushed all of the ducks.”

Murphy said he believes as many as six ducks were killed and a handful of others returned to the pond at the Crowne Plaza with apparent injuries. Murphy said he followed the BMW a few dozen feet down the road, took a picture of the license plate and called police.

Campbell left the scene before the officers arrived and later was questioned about the incident.

In a brief interview last week, Campbell acknowledged hitting the ducks, but declined to comment further until a police investigation into the matter concludes. Campbell then issued a statement Sunday, explaining that he felt it was necessary to address the situation.

Campbell wrote that he apologized to witnesses for striking the ducks, but left the area because one of those witnesses – Murphy – became “highly agitated and confrontational.”

“He cursed, continuously yelled, and approached me in a threatening manner,” Campbell wrote. “After I parked my car, his aggressive behavior and threats continued. To diffuse a situation that was becoming increasingly hostile, I walked across the parking lot to my office building.”

Campbell said he reported the incident to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and also spoke with the management of the Crowne Plaza. Campbell said he has cooperated fully with the Nashua police investigation.

“Once again, I extend my deepest apology to everyone involved, including the public,” he wrote.

Nashua police confirmed last week that they are investigating the incident, but provided few other details. In an email Monday, Police Chief John Seusing said the department is taking the matter seriously.

“The fact that this incident involves a state (representative) will not have any bearing on the outcome,” Seusing wrote. “This incident was very troubling to us and as I mentioned it will be looked into thoroughly. At this time it is still under investigation.”

Attempts to find out whether the injured ducks were cared for were unsuccessful.

Representatives from the Crowne Plaza did not return a call seeking comment last week. Nashua’s animal control officer was unavailable for comment Monday.

Police are still evaluating whether Campbell’s actions ran afoul of any state laws, but state wildlife officials say the seven-term House member and Nashua attorney was not required to report the collision with the ducks to police.

New Hampshire Fish and Game officer Jim Juneau said last week that motorists are only required to report collisions with domestic dogs.

However, in some rare cases, the state has cited drivers for intentionally running down wildlife in the past. Juneau said in one example, a driver was sanctioned for accelerating and swerving onto the shoulder of the road to strike wild turkeys.

Juneau said such an act could be construed as hunting turkeys off-season, or by illegal means.

“I do know in the past we had incidences where there was clear intent on the part of an operator in striking wild animals,” he said. “This is not something that happens often that comes to our attention.”

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@ Telegraph_JimH).