Newmarket man may face hate-crime charges
NEWMARKET — A Newmarket man is behind bars after being accused of scrawling racially motivated messages on street signs around town, threatening his neighbors, and living in a house as a convicted felon with access to nearly 40 guns, some of them loaded.
Brian T. Croall, 44, of 20 Durrell Drive, was arraigned Wednesday on firearms and drug charges resulting from a search of his home on Tuesday.
The search followed his arrest on July 17 in connection with a vandalism spree involving offensive and racist messages written on 14 town- and state-owned signs.
Handwritten notes were also found on his land and on trees and telephone poles.
Public Works Director Richard Malasky estimated the damage to the signs to be about $1,650.
According to police, some of the messages referenced the recent trial of George Zimmerman, a Florida man acquitted on July 13 in the high-profile killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin.
Newmarket police prosecutor Michael DiCroce said at least one of the messages referred to Zimmerman as a hero while other graffiti included a swastika.
DiCroce said he feels Croall is a danger to the public.
“We’ve had complaints by numerous neighbors about his activities in the neighborhood,” he said, adding that the neighbors who were allegedly threatened are concerned about their safety.
DiCroce added, “Given the fact of what he wrote, the swastika, the derogatory terms toward African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, elderly, I think he is a danger to this community. Those guns just weren’t sitting there (in his house). They were loaded.”
According to the police complaints, Croall allegedly threatened neighbors who drive a red Cadillac CTS with paper signs posted in the neighborhood that read, “Hey tough guy red CTS I’ll beat in front of you family.” Another message threatened, “Hey red CTS time for a beating.”
DiCroce said authorities are considering pursuing hate crime charges and will speak with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
While investigating the threatening messages, police obtained a search warrant and during a search of his home Tuesday found at least a dozen firearms in plain view, DiCroce said.
Police discovered as many as 39 firearms in the residence along with more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, DiCroce said.
Croall, who lives about a quarter-mile from Newmarket schools, isn’t allowed to have access to firearms because he was convicted of felony reckless conduct in August 2012 after firing a handgun into the air outside of the Chop Shop restaurant in Seabrook on Nov. 20, 2011. He fired the weapon after complaining that his car radio was stolen and nobody was helping him, prosecutors said at the time.
Police also found a small amount of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and the drug oxycodone for which he didn’t have a prescription.
Croall is charged with two counts of criminal threatening, criminal mischief, theft by unauthorized taking for allegedly stealing a solar light from a neighbor, possession of a controlled drug, possession of a narcotic drug and being a felon in possession of firearms.
At Wednesday’s arraignment in the 10th Circuit Court in Seabrook, defense attorney Joseph Plaia told Judge Mark Weaver that Croall’s mother confirmed the guns belonged to his father, who died within the past year, and that the oxycodone had also been taken by his father.
Still, DiCroce argued that it doesn’t matter if his father had owned the guns. He said Croall was living alone in the house and had access to them as a convicted felon.
Plaia argued for lower bail, saying Croall has diabetes and if he is released he could move out of his Newmarket residence to live at a home in Stratham.
Bail was set at $50,000 cash or corporate surety while bail in the vandalism and criminal threatening case remains at $25,000 cash.