Hudson man was reportedly suicidal when he allegedly assaulted police officer

NASHUA – Tormented for the past two months by the recurring image of his son shooting and killing himself in front of him and his wife, Hudson resident David Horne drove into a utility pole, then allegedly attacked police officers, while hoping they would be forced to shoot him, Horne’s attorney said in court Monday.

“Mr. Horne executed a series of actions, and made inferences, that (trying to induce police to shoot him) may have been going through his head at the time,” Attorney Mark Osborne told Judge Charles Temple at Horne’s bail hearing in Superior Court.

Horne, 57, is charged with a number of offenses accusing him of attacking Officer Tyler Merrill, who had responded to the area of 100 Pelham Road around 9 p.m. Saturday for a reported vehicle crash involving a utility pole.

Police said Merrill saw a man walking away from the scene. When Merrill asked him to stop, the man allegedly refused and began fighting the officer.

The man, later identified as Horne, allegedly slapped and punched Merrill in the face, and punched him in the nose, according to Assistant County Attorney Brett Harpster.

As the two struggled, Horne allegedly tried to push Merrill into live electrical wires that fell to the ground when Horne’s vehicle, a 2008 Hyundai Elantra, struck the utility pole. Merrill “could have been electrocuted,” Harpster said.

Horne then allegedly grabbed the cord of Merrill’s two-way radio and “attempted to wrap it around (Merrill’s) neck to try to choke him,” he said.

Just before backup officers arrived, Horne had attempted – but ultimately failed – to pull Merrill’s firearm from its holster on his belt, Harpster added.

The arriving officers, Sgt. Patrick McStravick and Lt. Michael Gosselin, said Merrill apparently attempted to subdue Horne with his Taser, but to no avail. One of them deployed his Taser, which did little to stop Horne, nor did a third attempt, Harpster said.

The officers said in their reports that Horne made verbal statements during the alleged struggle, including, “I was just trying to end it … do your job … pull your gun out and shoot me in the head,” according to Harpster.

It took the three officers, along with two others who’d arrived to assist, to restrain Horne, and it “took multiple attempts” to get him into a cruiser, he said.

He refused medical treatment for minor injuries, and was transported to Hudson police headquarters for booking, police said, adding that Horne allegedly “continued to be combative until he arrived” at headquarters.

The charges police listed in an earlier statement include one count each of attempted strangulation of a police officer, attempted taking of a police officer’s firearm, and driving while intoxicated; two counts of resisting arrest or detention, and seven counts of assault on a police officer.

Harpster indicated that at least three of the alleged offenses are felonies, and all the charges could potentially draw “extended term penalties.”

Police said the “entire incident” remains under investigation, and urge anyone who may have witnessed the crash to contact Merrill at tmerrill@hudsonnh.gov or 886-6011.

On Monday, the rows of seats in Temple’s courtroom were filled nearly to capacity for the hearing. On one side sat close to 20 Hudson police officers, a mix of uniformed officers and detectives ranging from patrol personnel to Chief William Avery and other command staff members.

The defense side, meanwhile, was occupied by roughly a dozen people who attended in support of Horne, including his wife and other family members, close friends and at least three co-workers.

Harpster asked Temple, the judge, to order Horne held on preventive detention, calling all the allegations “very serious charges.” Although Horne has a very short criminal record, and until now has had no new offenses in nearly 30 years, Harpster said preventive detention is necessary for “the safety of others, as well as the defendant.”

Osborne, meanwhile, asked for personal recognizance bail, mainly so his client can seek the mental health treatment he needs. If Temple wasn’t inclined to set personal recognizance bail, Osborne asked that he include in the bail order an order that would convert his bail to personal recognizance if, and when, he is admitted to a residential mental health program.

In speaking on behalf of his client, Osborne painted a tragic picture of what he called “a very long road” that Horne and his family have faced since their son’s July 10 suicide.

Their son, 21, “walked into the room, took out a pistol, held it to his head, and he pulled the trigger … and he died,” Osborne said to a stilled, silent courtroom.

“The imagery of seeing his son kill himself” remains fresh in Horne’s mind, Osborne said.

“That’s what he sees all the time … going to work, at work, going home, brushing his teeth … he keeps seeing his dead son on the floor with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Horne almost certainly drove his car into a utility pole purposely, “in an attempt to kill himself,” Osborne said. When the attempt failed, Horne allegedly “challenged the officer,” which Osborne said he believes was an attempt to induce police to kill him.

“Why am I still alive? Why haven’t they blown me away yet?” were questions “that may have been going through his head,” Osborne said.

After hearing from both sides and weighing all the information, Temple accepted Osborne’s recommendation, telling Horne that “we have to get to the root of it,” referring to Horne’s emotional decline since what Temple called “the unimaginable” incident regarding his son.

“Warehousing” Horne at Valley Street jail isn’t the answer, Temple said in imposing the bail order that allows Horne the opportunity for PR bail if he is admitted to a residential program and obeys all other conditions of bail.

“It’s clear that if your life is to be turned back to normalcy, that needs to be done sooner than later,” Temple said of Horne being admitted to mental health treatment.

“This is a pivotal moment in this case … and in your life,” he added.

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


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox