Veteran held after air rifle incident

NASHUA – Alex Costello never intended to harm anyone when the 28-year-old military veteran, who has been struggling of late with mental health issues, fired a .22 caliber air rifle several times at a target hanging on a wall of his apartment, according to his public defender.

What Costello apparently didn’t know, Attorney Amanda Steenhuis said in court Thursday, is the projectiles were penetrating the wall and ending up in the adjacent apartment, frightening the couple that lives there.

Police said they took Costello, of 5 Casco Drive, into custody about 7 p.m. Wednesday, an hour after officers responded to reports of shots fired in the building.

A special reaction team was summoned to the scene, but departed a short time later after officers spoke with Costello and arrested him.

He was charged with one count of reckless conduct, a Class B felony, and following booking was held overnight at Valley Street jail pending Thursday’s court appearance.

Costello waived formal arraignment, entering a plea of not guilty to the charge. At the subsequent bail hearing, Steenhuis asked for personal recognizance bail to allow Costello the opportunity to obtain mental health treatment.

“What we have here is a man suffering from mental illness,” Steenhuis told Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau. Emphasizing that Costello has no criminal record, she said people tend to be afraid of him, mainly due to behavior that likely stems from his mental health issues.

“To say he is dangerous is premature,” Steenhuis said. “He needs treatment … he has reached out for help, and has gotten treatment, but he needs a bigger program.

Assistant County Attorney Brett Harpster, the prosecutor, asked Nadeau to hold Costello on preventive detention, and if he is released that he be ordered not to go to the Casco Drive apartment or have any contact with the couple next door, as well as a woman living in the building who told police Costello had allegedly “terrorized her for 48 hours” leading up to Wednesday’s incident.

While acknowledging Costello has no criminal record, Harpster said his behavior has left his neighbors “feeling unsafe” around him.

“People are concerned,” Harpster told Nadeau. “He definitely needs help – and we all want him to get that help – but in the meantime, we also want everyone to be safe.”

And while Costello may very well be sincere that he has no intention to harm anyone, releasing him on personal recognizance bail could still present a risk, he added.

“If he’s released and returns to that apartment, someone could be hurt, someone could be killed,” Harpster said.

Nadeau, after considering the lawyers’ arguments, opted to hold Costello on preventive detention.

“These are never easy decisions, because it’s still early on in the case,” she told the court.

Nadeau left open the possibility she “will entertain a motion to reconsider bail” if Costello applies to and is accepted in a mental health treatment program.

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256, or @Telegraph_DeanS.