SALISBURY, Mass. A Souhegan High School official was arrested after refusing to leave a northern Massachusetts strip club and being combative with police officers called for assistance by club security, according to court documents.
Peter Gagnon, 37, of Pelham, is the dean of students at Souhegan High School in Amherst. He was arrested early Wednesday on charges of disorderly conduct, trespassing and resisting arrest in Salisbury, Mass. Salisbury police were called to Ten s Show Club around 12:15 a.m. Wednesday for a report of an unwanted guest that refused to leave. Club security said the man, later identified as Gagnon, was standing close to other patrons private dances and was seen going in and out of the women s restroom, police said. Officers stated in sworn affidavits filed in Newburyport (Mass.) District Court that Gagnon appeared to be extremely intoxicated, with severely red and glassy eyes and was unsteady on his feet.
At first, we were trying to get him a ride home, Chief Thomas Fowler said Friday. Then we put him into protective custody. He resisted to that.
Gagnon became combative when officers attempted to handcuff him in the lobby area of the club, police said, and continued resisting despite being restrained and escorted from the club, Sgt. James Leavitt said in his signed report. Once outside, Gagnon refused to get in a police cruiser for several minutes and was warned a Taser would be used if he continued resisting, police said. One officer reported Gagnon said go ahead and Tase me. Leavitt applied the Taser with a five-second shock to Gagnon s chest, pushing him back into the rear of the car, where officers were able to tuck his legs into the cruiser and drive him to the police station, according to Leavitt s report.
Gagnon continued acting irrationally while he was being booked, police said, refusing to get out of the cruiser until officers physically removed him and brought him inside.
Each time a question was asked of him, he would become verbally insulting, Leavitt wrote. He would, however, change his attitude and show signs of being polite and apologetic. Police said Gagnon remained difficult as officers attempted to take his picture, holding up his middle finger, and later told officers his phone number was 1-800-(expletive)-you. Gagnon also resisted when officers attempted to place him in a cell, grabbing at the door until police forced him inside, according to the police reports. Leavitt and two officers who assisted him at the scene all documented the arrest in reports obtained Friday at District Court in Newburyport, Mass.
In a statement, SAU 39 Superintendent Peter Warburton said Gagnon has been placed on administrative leave but refrained from commenting any further on the matter as it involves a personnel issue.
The allegations involving Mr. Gagnon did not involve any students of the district, and did not occur during work hours. There are no known allegations related to student safety, Warburton said. The reports of Gagnon s behavior stood in stark contrast to images Gagnon posted recently on social media, showing him playing happily with two small children and celebrating Christmas and family birthdays. Attempts to reach Gagnon on Friday were unsuccessful. A woman who answered a call from a Union Leader reporter said no thank you and hung up.
Gagnon was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was arraigned Thursday and a pretrial hearing date was set for June 27.
Gagnon s car was impounded after police located it a short distance from the club. An officer that took inventory of the vehicle s contents said it contained several empty beer containers, a ring and a cell phone.
Union Leader correspondent Kimberly Haas contributed to this report.
The Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 on Friday fired the private security firm it had used to provide security at North High/Middle School after an incident involving pepper spray the day earlier.
Seven students were exposed to pepper spray by the security officer assigned to the school.
We were very clear that we did not agree with the actions of the security officer and determined that it is in our best interest to terminate the services of DTH, Bill Clark, spokesman for the school district, said in a news release. The unnamed security officer sprayed a student with pepper spray twice, once after observing an exchange between a school administrator and the student and again after following the student into the school s Career Center. Other students in the Career Center were also exposed to the pepper spray, the district said. According to reports on Thursday afternoon, the exchange between a school official and the student arose from music playing on a cell phone and some apparent difficulty in turning it off.
After the pepper spray was discharged, law enforcement and EMS services were called to the school and the school was locked down to prevent other students from being exposed to the pepper spray, the district said.
All students involved in the incident were able to return to school on Friday, the district said.
Prison Sgt. Meggan Callahan was responding to a fire set inside Bertie Correctional Institution Wednesday when an inmate attacked and killed her, state officials say. Inmate Craig Wissink assaulted Callahan with the fire extinguisher she d brought to fight the trash can fire inside the eastern North Carolina prison, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Wissink, who has been serving a life sentence for murder since 2004, has been charged with first degree murder in connection with Callahan s death.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday ordered all North Carolina flags at state facilities to be lowered to half-staff in tribute to Callahan. Hired to work for the prisons in 2012, Callahan, 29, was promoted to sergeant in February 2016. She worked in a job that carries the constant risk of death and serious injury. Once every eight hours, on average, a North Carolina prison officer was assaulted last year.
Statewide, there were 1,160 assaults on state prison staff in 2016 up from 1,136 the previous year, state figures show. In 2015, another officer at Bertie Marvin Garris, Jr. sustained serious injuries to his eyes, head and face after an inmate attacked him. Garris and another officer were escorting 10 inmates out of a cell block and into a medical unit when the assault occurred, police say. Inmate William Allen, Jr., 28, has been charged in that attack. He is serving time for second degree murder and armed robbery.
In another 2015 case, an inmate at Bertie stabbed a prison staff member with a homemade weapon. Keisha Barnes, a correctional programs supervisor at Bertie, was in a sergeant s office when inmate Joseph Gray entered and stabbed her, authorities say. Gray has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Housing 1,500 inmates, Bertie is near the coast, more than 250 miles east of Charlotte. Once every eight hours, on average, a North Carolina prison officer was assaulted last year.
The danger to officers is highest at Bertie and the state s other large maximum security prisons, officers say. In one month alone November 2014 inmates committed 13 assaults on staff members at Lanesboro Correctional Institution, 45 miles southeast of Charlotte. In a news release issued Friday evening, the state Department of Public Safety gave the following account of what happened to Callahan:
At about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Callahan got a fire extinguisher to put out a trash can fire inside a prison dormitory. Wissink then attacked Callahan and a struggle ensued.
Wissink managed to get the fire extinguisher away from Sgt. Callahan and used it in the assault, a department spokesperson wrote. Sgt. Callahan sustained injuries from the attack, which ultimately led to her death. The State Bureau of Investigation and Windsor Police are investigating.
Anthony Jernigan, who heads the SBI office that covers northeastern North Carolina, said Callahan was beaten and that the incident is captured on prison surveillance video. State Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks said the prison system would cooperate with the law enforcement investigation into Callahan s death, and conduct its own investigation as well.
Katie Overton, who had known Callahan since middle school, said that what she cherished most about getting together with her friend was the laughter. Callahan was always making silly faces, joking and doing her utmost to brighten her friends spirits.
She loved to make people happy, Overton said. I didn t know anyone who didn t like her. She was one of those people you were just drawn to. Overton remembers having a bad day at John A. Holmes High School in Edenton, when out from behind hallway lockers Callahan suddenly jumped in front of her and shouted her name. Instantly, the two were consumed with laughter.
Soon after Callahan started working at the prison, Overton recalls telling her: You ve got to be careful. There are some crazy people in there. As usual, her friend responded with a laugh. I dare one of them to mess with me! Overton recalls her saying.
It s so hard to believe someone would do this to her, of all people, Overton said. Ron Perry, a former prison captain at Bertie who supervised Callahan, described her as smart, ambitious and quick-witted. Once you met her, you were a friend, Perry said. She just had a love for life.
Callahan was always smiling, said Ricky Nixon, a landlord who owned the house in Edenton where she lived.
She was a very sweet lady, Nixon said. Her personality was very jolly. She lived alone and put in many hours at the prison, Nixon said. She worked all the time, he said. Said Gov. Cooper: I’m deeply saddened by this tragedy. This reminds us of the risks that law enforcement including correctional officers take every day to protect us.
In a news release, Hooks said: I am deeply saddened and send my heartfelt sympathies to Sergeant Callahan’s family. We will do all we can to support her family as well as the correctional family.
An aerial view of Bertie Correctional Institution in Windsor, N.C.
Wissink, the inmate suspected of killing Callahan, received a life sentence for the shooting of John Lawrence Pruey during an attempted robbery in Fayetteville in June 2000. He was convicted nearly four years later.
Prosecutors in the 2004 trial said that Wissink and Lawrence Lee Ash went to Pruey’s mobile home with the intent to rob him; each defendant contended the other pulled the trigger on the shotgun that killed Pruey.
Staff writer Gavin Off contributed.
Funeral for Meggan Callahan
A funeral mass for Meggan Callahan will be held at noon on Thursday, May 4. It will take place in the Family Life Center of the Edenton United Methodist Church, 225 Virginia Rd, Edenton, N.C. Full law enforcement honors will be accorded at the service.