In Newport: Guns, drugs stolen from police evidence room

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Mikeal Rivers.  Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police
Mikeal Rivers. Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police

copyright the Chronicle February 11, 2015 

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Police say they arrested a man Sunday night whose pockets bulged with drugs and guns stolen from the Newport Police Department’s evidence room. The thefts could place some prosecutions in jeopardy, according to the affidavit filed in the case by State Police Sergeant Matthew Amadon.

Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett declined to comment on what effect the theft might have on her office’s work. She said it will take several days to review cases connected to the stolen evidence.

The arrested man, Mikeal Rivers, 19, of Newport, appeared Monday in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Criminal Court where he pled innocent to felony charges of burglary, obstructing justice, grand larceny, and possession of heroin. He also pled innocent to providing false information meant to implicate another and possession of a narcotic, both misdemeanors.

Judge Timothy Tomasi ordered Mr. Rivers held for lack of $25,000 bail at Northern State Correctional Facility.

The thefts came to light when two probation officers went to a Newport apartment to check on the whereabouts of an acquaintance of Mr. Rivers. Probation officers John Hardy and Vicki Hosford were in search of a man who was being sought, along with Mr. Rivers, by Newport police in connection with another crime.

The two probation officers said the person they were looking for was not home, but his mother let them into her apartment. She said Mr. Rivers had been at her apartment and left items behind, Ms. Hosford said. She pointed to a trash can next to the door that contained small brown paper bags, Mr. Hardy said.

Looking more closely, Mr. Hardy said, he recognized the name of a Newport patrolman and realized he was looking at an evidence bag. The woman brought the officers another trash container that was filled with plastic evidence bags, Mr. Hardy said.

The officers called Newport Patrolman David Jacobs and told him what they had found. He arrived with Patrolman Corey Marcoux and took charge of the evidence bags.

According to the woman, Mr. Rivers stood outside her apartment for about 20 minutes before knocking and asking to use the bathroom. When he came in she noticed his jacket appeared to be very bulky, Ms. Hosford said.

He stayed in the bathroom about 30 minutes, and at one point the woman heard what she thought was the slide on a “firearm action” being worked, the affidavit says.

When Mr. Rivers came out of the bathroom the woman said she saw two handguns in his back pocket, Ms. Hosford said. He told the woman they were only Airsoft guns.

The woman said she noticed blood on Mr. River’s hand and jacket and asked if he had jumped through a window. Mr. Rivers told her he had been roughed up by police officers.

She asked Mr. Rivers to leave her apartment after seeing him doing something with a bag of marijuana, Sergeant Amadon said.

Patrolmen Jacobs and Marcoux drove back to the Newport police station where they found that the department’s evidence room, gun locker, and ammunition cabinets had been burglarized. The door, which was locked with a deadbolt, had been opened by someone who broke the window and unlatched the door from the inside, the affidavit says.

Officer Jacobs noticed blood on the floor near the evidence room door, Sergeant Amadon said.

The officers called Newport Police Chief Seth DiSanto and stayed just outside the evidence room door until he arrived.

Chief DiSanto told Patrolman Marcoux to go back to the apartment and make sure it remained as it had been to aid an investigation.

As he drove to the apartment, Patrolman Marcoux saw Mr. Rivers walking down Main Street. He turned around and radioed Patrolman Jacobs. The two officers went looking for Mr. Rivers and saw him running from Main Street toward the parking lot behind the Governor Prouty Apartments, Sergeant Amadon said.

Patrolman Marcoux turned into the lot and saw Mr. Rivers fall in front of his cruiser. Mr. Rivers complied with Patrolman Marcoux’ order to show his hands and he was handcuffed.

When asked if he was armed Mr. Rivers said he had two guns, Sergeant Amadon said. Patrolman Marcoux took them out of the front pocket of his sweatshirt, the affidavit says.

He agreed to allow the officers to search him, and they took from his bulging jacket an evidence bag containing 20 buprenorphine strips and other sealed evidence bags containing 52 bags of heroin, Sergeant Amadon said. Sergeant Amadon said the total weight of the heroin was in the range of 1.6 grams.

His affidavit suggested police retrieved other items from Mr. Rivers’ pockets, but they were not listed.

The two handguns taken from Mr. Rivers were a Taurus PT 111, Millennium pistol and a Walther .40 caliber pistol, Sergeant Amadon said. Both weapons were loaded, although the Walther did not have a round in the chamber, he said.

Both weapons were evidence in criminal cases, Sergeant Amadon said, but because they were removed from a secure location and were in the possession of an unauthorized person, the chain of custody had been broken. That, he said, would likely result in a court challenge and the obstruction of justice.

Sergeant Amadon and Detective Trooper Clark Lombardi visited the basement of Newport’s Municipal Building to see the evidence room. Sergeant Charles Moulton told the troopers that a security camera monitors the main hallway in the basement.

State Police Lieutenant Kirk Cooper looked at surveillance video from the basement camera, and he saw film of someone fitting the description of Mr. Rivers in the basement, Sergeant Amadon said.

The man could be seen going through the door leading to the evidence room around 5:40 p.m. and leaving around 6:53 p.m., said Sergeant Amadon. He said that when the man left the area his jacket pockets appeared to be full, Sergeant Amadon said.

According to a press release from Lieutenant Cooper, the investigation was transferred to State Police control to avoid conflicts of interest.

When Trooper Lombardi brought Mr. Rivers to the Derby barracks for questioning he noticed a brown bag sticking out of his front trouser pocket, the affidavit says. It turned out to be another evidence bag, said Sergeant Amadon.

Mr. Rivers was questioned after being read his Miranda rights, Sergeant Amadon said. He said Mr. Rivers denied being in the basement of the Municipal Building and said he was with a friend between 2 p.m. and the time he was arrested.

The basement of the Municipal Building has been a concern for Newport police for some time.

On Town Meeting Day city voters will be asked to approve a plan to renovate the bottom floor of the former armory using bond money left over from the reconstruction of the Veterans Memorial Long Bridge.

Plans call for separating public and police areas of the building, increasing garage space for cruisers, and building improved holding cells for those arrested.

contact Joseph Gresser at [email protected]

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