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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Gun incidents up in Nashua, but police uncertain if stats are a glitch or a trend

NASHUA – A masked man entered a downtown pharmacy shortly before dawn March 25 and pulled out a black handgun tucked into the pocket of his gray hooded sweatshirt.

After grabbing all of the Percocet pills he could, the robber fled on foot. ...

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NASHUA – A masked man entered a downtown pharmacy shortly before dawn March 25 and pulled out a black handgun tucked into the pocket of his gray hooded sweatshirt.

After grabbing all of the Percocet pills he could, the robber fled on foot.

Despite circulating photos captured on the pharmacy’s video surveillance camera, police still haven’t identified the suspect.

Two days later, Police Commissioner Tom Pappas said there is “a disturbing trend” of an increase in instances of firearms used in crimes in Nashua.

“That certainly continues to be a trend: We’re seeing handguns and weapons – it’s unfortunate,” Pappas said. “Prescription drugs is another disconcerting trend. We continue to see it time and time again.”

Statistics bear out that Nashua has seen an increase in police calls involving firearms in recent weeks. But more time is needed to see whether the city is seeing a statistical glitch or a trend, Police Chief John Seusing said.

City police fielded six calls through March for reports of shots fired, Seusing said.

In one case, an off-duty Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority officer fired a .357 Magnum revolver four times inside the Radisson Hotel on Tara Boulevard. Gary McKeon, 47, who was reportedly suicidal, pointed the gun at a Nashua police officer in the hotel hallway before retreating into his room.

Facing four felony reckless conduct charges, McKeon was bailed out by his family and released to an in-patient rehabilitation center in Vermont.

Also, from Jan. 1 through March, Nashua police responded to 87 reported calls with “some mention of a gun or pistol,” Seusing said.

Those include someone being threatened with a gun or was thought to have a gun, or there was a report of a gun stolen, or a suspect in a robbery showing a gun or claiming to have a gun.

For example, at 2:50 a.m. Feb. 3, Nashua patrol officers stopped a motor vehicle and discovered shotguns in the trunk that later proved to have been stolen.

Police stopped the driver, Brandon Yebba, 27, of North Andover, Mass., for traveling the wrong way on Medical Center Drive, police said.

Yebba was charged with driving while intoxicated, police said.

In an inventory search of Yebba’s vehicle, police discovered seven shotguns of various types in the trunk. The shotguns were held by police while they confirmed who owned them, police said. Police later received information that the shotguns were stolen from a gun shop in Salem, Mass., police said.

Overall, there have been more gun incidents this year compared with the same period last year, Seusing said.

During the first quarter of 2012, police responded to seven reports of shots fired, one more than in the first quarter of 2013. But for the first quarter of 2012, there were 24 fewer – 63 in total –
mentions of a gun in a report, something police call “in the narrative,” Seusing said.

“I don’t know what significance that really has,” Seusing said.

In the second quarter of 2012, there were 104 calls with mention of a gun, and a total of 345 for the year, Seusing said.

But anecdotally, officers on the streets are seeing a greater presence of firearms used in crime, and it was likely the armed robbery of the CVS pharmacy that prompted Pappas’ comment, Seusing said.

“We’re just seeing more of it, one way or another,” Seusing said. “We’re paying very close attention to this. We have meetings every morning and we talk about what has gone on in the last 24 hours. It seems that way.”

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Meighan on Twitter (@Telegraph_PatM).