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Manchester police: It took two bullets, Taser to subdue man in chase

Staff Report
June 04. 2013 10:30PM
A Manchester police bike rests on the pavement of Merrimack Street after Monday night's shooting. (MARK HAYWARD/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Shot twice in the legs by police, a Pembroke man who led police on a center-city car chase Monday had to be Tasered and still struggled before he could be handcuffed, police said in court records disclosed Tuesday. 

Christopher Varagianis, 37, remained hospitalized Tuesday at Elliot Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said. He faces charges ranging from attempted first-degree assault to resisting arrest, following a frenzied chase through the city around 6 p.m. Monday.

According to court records, the chase ended a little more than a block east of the old Manchester police station, with two gigantic SUVs facing off against each other, nearly grill to grill. Plainclothes detective Michael Lavallee was behind the wheel of an unmarked Manchester police GMC Yukon, its blue lights flashing, trying to contain a fleeing vehicle.

Varagianis was at the wheel of a Jeep Commander, hoping to break loose.

Varagianis had stepped on the gas and rammed the police Yukon. Lavallee floored his accelerator, trying to both prevent Varagianis' escape and protect nearby police officers who were on foot.

Through it all, detective Sgt. Joe Mucci was directly outside the passenger side of the Jeep, his gun drawn and yelling at Varagianis to stop.

According to a sworn affidavit by detective Sgt. Sean Leighton, detective Michael Bergeron had also drawn his gun, after seconds earlier dropping his flashlight and radio as Varagianis' SUV drove directly at him.

"The Jeep appeared ready to break free of the blocking vehicle, forcing a detective to leap out of the way," reads a statement issued by Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance. "Officers on scene discharged their firearms at the vehicle, which was able to push past the police vehicle, maneuvering over the sidewalk and curb onto Merrimack Street, where it was finally boxed in by other officers and vehicles."

Varagianis still refused to get out of his SUV, according to the affidavit.

Bergeron reached into the vehicle, unlocked the door, opened it and he and other officers ultimately pulled Varagianis out and put him on the ground. Police said Varagianis tucked his arms under his chest and refused to be handcuffed.

Police zapped Varagianis with a Taser, which proved ineffective, as police said he continued to resist and climb up to his knees.

Police forced him back on the ground for a second time and then eventually officers "were able to forcefully put his hands behind his back and handcuff him," according to the police affidavit.

$750,000 bail set

Varagianis later waived arraignment on felony charges of attempted first-degree assault and two counts of reckless conduct. He also faces three misdemeanor charges of disobeying a police officer and a single count of resisting arrest.

Two agencies are overseeing separate investigations into the matter.

The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office is investigating the police shooting. In a statement, Attorney General Joseph Foster said the investigation is in the early stages and will take several days.

Meanwhile, LaFrance is handling the prosecution of Varagianis, who needs to come up with $750,000 in cash or a bond to get out of custody before trial.

His record includes past arrests for both state and federal drug charges, according to previous New Hampshire Union Leader articles.

Police said the confrontation started a little before 6 p.m., when police and EMTs answered a 911 call about an unconscious man, possibly the victim of a heart attack, at a vehicle parked facing the Seven Days Market at Union and Cedar streets.

When bicycle patrol officers Patrick Mullen and Ferdinand Cruz arrived, the man woke up and became combative.

EMT Craig Clough, 39, and his partner attempted to treat Varagianis, who was in the driver's seat of the SUV. Clough told police Varagianis appeared to be out of it.

Varagianis, however, closed the SUV door, backed up, revved the engine and then accelerated. The SUV turned to the left, brushing Clough back and nearly striking him, according to the police affidavit.

The bicycle officers were unable to stop the Varagianis vehicle at Pine Street and Lake Avenue.

It then raced through the center city, making turns onto Beech Street, Litchfield Lane, Union Street, Merrimack Street, a narrow Merrimack Street driveway between two tenement buildings, an alley, and then the parking lot at the southeast corner of Pine and Merrimack streets, where the confrontation took place.

At one point, Roy White, 29, had to jump onto some stairs at the rear of 187 Merrimack St. to avoid getting hit, police said.

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