Witness Tells NH AG Library Arrest Looked Like 'Pair of Hitmen Beating Up a Kid’
LEBANON — Last week's arrest of a teen has prompted a man to reach out to state law enforcement to complain about officers who made the arrest in a local library.
Jacob Seace, 18, of Lebanon was arrested at the Kilton Library about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday when officers arrived to speak with him about an ongoing investigation into a computer crime.
Police said he was about to flee with a mobile phone that may have evidence of a crime on it. Police said he tried to flee and was subsequently detained, arrested and charged with obstructing government administration and resisting arrest and detention, both class B misdemeanors.
A library patron recorded part of the incident on a mobile phone. The video does not show the initial confrontation, though audio from the phone captures voices of police and what appears to be Seace yelling while he is being detained.
One of the people who was in the library at the time of the incident contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General's office to complain.
"I've emailed NH Attorney General Gordon MacDonald my wish to protest the seemingly excessive and unreasonable force used by Sgt. Richard Norris and Detective Alan Lowe, to apprehend a patron of the Kilton Library on November 7th," Kevin Leveret, who lives in Vermont, wrote in an email to NH1 News. "Neither representative of the West Lebanon police department was in uniform, and I initially thought I was witnessing a pair of hit-men beating up a kid... then hand-cuffs appeared. I say 'excessive' because either of the cops must have been 5/3 the mass of the smaller guy, 'unreasonable' because the scene should have played outside the library...
"I was angered to see an unfair fight perpetrated by 2 bullies against a defenseless victim. I was later told the 2 bullies were cops, I assume were there on their own volition."
Police Chief Richard Mello said Monday that the officer were within reason.
"The use of force was within policy and state law. To associate other quantifiers such as how much bigger or smaller a person was, or what could or could not have happened, is not reality," Mello said. "It is not germane to the incident and not germane to how we look at it."
The incident and Seace's behavior has garnered significant public attention. A post of the video on NH1's Facebook page led to several comments.
"This is how my 5 year old acts when she’s over tired and I’m not even touching her," wrote Tim Blacklock. "All I hear is a kid whining because he wants to turn himself into the victim."
Bryan O'Riley Jr. wrote, "Decided to flee?? Was he being detained or under arrest? You were asking questions and wanting to forcefully take his phone. Skating around a warrant is garbage. And the excuse 'wanting to talk to him' is such a joke!
Cop- We just want to talk to you.
Me-There are two of you talk amongst yourselves and have a rainbow day."
Vincent Farruggio Sr. said, "Cops didn't do any wrong. This kid was acting."
Leveret said the AG's office already responded to him and said the department is responsible for looking into the officers' behavior.
"Unfortunately, Deputy Attorney General Ann M. Rice replied, forwarding my complaint to Lebanon Police Chief Mello. 'As the officers’ employer, the Chief is responsible for addressing such complaints,'" Leveret wrote.
He said he responded to Rice that he feels the AG should step in.
"Given chief Mello already defended his 'employees' in the article 'Library Arrest Raises Concerns,' his bias would probably reinforce the status quo and not foster justice for the victim," Leveret wrote back to her. "That's why i addressed his boss."
Library director Sean Fleming said Monday he saw the two plainclothes officers arrive at the library the day of the incident. He greeted them as he knew one of the officers, and they asked him if they could use a conference room at the library to talk with Seace. He said yes and then went back to his own office. He exited the office when he heard "a commotion" and saw the officers trying to handcuff Seace on the ground.
"The guys were just doing their job," Fleming said. "He seemed to be resisting. If he was compliant, it wouldn't have been an issue."
Mello reiterated his comments from last week on Monday.
"The intent was to talk to him. We don't bring uniformed officers with detectives," Mello said. "If we had anticipated an issue or arrest we would have brought additional officers or uniformed personnel."
Mello said the investigation into evidence on the cellphone is ongoing. An initial warrant was obtained, and he said additional warrants were being sought for other accounts found to be associated with the device.
Mello called it a "time consuming process" and compared investigations into use of electronic devices for crimes to an "Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole."