MANCHESTER — Friends and loved ones of Wendy Lawrence said the woman shot to death Monday night in her car after being pursued by state troopers had a history of minor run-ins with the law and was petrified of police.
What they can't understand is why police would fire numerous shots — some people say they heard as many as 10 — through her windshield.
"They pretty much executed her," said a grieving Charles Peter, who has dated Lawrence for 3 1/2 years.
"I spent four years in the Army. I was honorably discharged. I didn't serve my country to see people killed like this. What about shooting tires?" he said.
Peter said Lawrence, who just turned 44 and lived in Canterbury, had left his Warner home and was on her way to Concord late Monday afternoon. On Monday night, residents said Manchester police told them that state police had been pursuing the car from Bow. The driver had exited Interstate 93 at 9S, weaved through neighborhoods and rammed a state police cruiser that pulled in front of her, according to accounts neighbors relayed from police.
However, photographs of the incident show no damage to Lawrence's car or the state police cruiser.
By Tuesday morning, the police cars, ambulances, investigators and crowds were gone from the intersection of Dave Street and Kennard Road. A sprinkling of sand was on the pavement where the shooting took place in the North End neighborhood.
Authorities were slow to release information. An autopsy was expected to take place Tuesday, and authorities said they would release the victim's name once the autopsy was complete and next-of-kin were notified.
Homicide prosecutor Jeffery Strelzin said Manchester and New Hampshire State Police are investigating the shooting.
"We are not in a position to comment on the facts yet, since we are still in the early stages of the investigation," he wrote in an email.
Didn't own a gun
Court records viewed Tuesday show Lawrence had been arrested for assaulting her boyfriend, multiple charges of marijuana possession, violation of a restraining order and drunken driving.
The charges date back to 2008. Sentences have included home confinement, 14 days in jail and a suspended sentence.
In the domestic violence case, Lawrence was accused of assaulting Charles Peter on Sept. 15, 2012. She was also accused of hitting Peter in the face and leaving a mark, and breaking a telephone to prevent him from calling police.
Peter acknowledges the couple had some difficult times. He said Lawrence drank and smoked marijuana but did not use hard drugs. She did not own a gun, Peter said.
He teared up as he visited the shooting scene, spoke to reporters and embraced friends. One was Gary Boulac, Lawrence's ex-husband, who lives just around the corner from where she was shot.
"She never hated police. She was always afraid of police, deathly scared," said Boulac as he held Angel, Lawrence's 10-year-old Pomeranian. "If a cop started to talk to her, she'd start shaking."
Peter said Lawrence suffered from anxiety and took medication for it. Her police fears stemmed from an incident about a year ago in Allenstown. He said police "beat the hell out of her" and intentionally crushed her new pair of glasses. He said it was a misunderstanding on the part of police: a restraining order that forbade Lawrence from having contact with him had been revoked, but police were unaware of it.
Allenstown Police Chief Paul Paquette said his department never received a report about a police beating involving Lawrence. He noted that Lawrence recently pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, simple assault, obstructing the report of a crime and marijuana possession.
In her application for a court-appointed attorney, Lawrence claimed to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Paperwork said she worked at an Allenstown bakery, Whoop It Up, was formerly on welfare, was receiving child support for a son and was receiving Social Security supplemental security income.
But Peter said Lawrence worked. She left his Warner home before 6 p.m. Monday to go to work at the Concord branch of Hesser College, where she cleaned at night. And she owned a deejay business, Sweet Angel Karaoke and DJ.
She had two children living in Massachusetts and one grandchild. She made friends with veterans.
Boulac said he met her at the Suncook American Legion, and Peter said she was a member of the VFW-Auxiliary.
"She was fantastic. She got close with everybody," Peter said. "Nobody said a bad word about her."
No sirens heard
Meanwhile, another neighbor said that no sirens preceded the several gunshots she heard about 6:30 p.m.
"I heard one loud shot, then a one-second pause, then boom, boom, boom," said Debbie Moldonado, whose house was directly behind where Lawrence's car ended up. Moldonado had five children home at the time and herded the younger ones into the bathroom at the rear of the house, looking to keep them safe.
Her 9-year-old son, Jovani, said he looked out the window when blue lights raced through the living room. He saw a maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo with one police car behind it and another in front of it.
"The doors bursted open and the cops were shooting," Jovani said. "I think they said 'back-up' or something like that on their walkie-talkie."