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Report sheds light on Auburn officer's 2010 resignation, dropped charges

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 25. 2013 9:53PM

Prosecutors dropped charges against retired Auburn police lieutenant David Flight two weeks before he was to go on trial for felony theft charges. (COURTESY)

AUBURN — A former Auburn police officer resigned three years ago during an investigation into missing money from the department's evidence room, an area under his charge, according to recently released investigative files from the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office.

Lt. David C. Flight, a 21-year-veteran of the department, resigned in 2010, but no reason was ever publicly given until the release of the investigative file compiled in the alleged theft of a Remington rifle from the evidence room.

Last year, about two years after he retired, Flight was indicted on receiving stolen property and theft by unauthorized taking charges in connection with that rifle.

Prosecutors with the Attorney General's Officer later dropped the charges after investigators discovered a ledger that recorded the confiscation of about 60 long rifles from an Auburn resident in 1992. Those rifles were stored at Flight's home because, at the time, the police station's closet-size evidence room could not hold them, Flight maintained.

He said Police Chief Edward Picard gave him the Remington model 7400 30-06 rifle with scope, confiscated from another Auburn resident in 1992 during an investigation into a home invasion, in payment for storing the other firearms.

"That's not true," Picard said. Picard pointed out the rifles Flight said he stored at his house were confiscated as part of another investigation conducted by state police, not Auburn police.

The weapons were later returned to the owner, who picked them up at the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office, according to Picard. The rifle that Flight allegedly had in his possession was confiscated in a home invasion case which Flight investigated, the chief said.

Picard, according to the investigative files, said he did not recall weapons ever being stored at Flight's home. The ledger, however, clearly indicates the rifles were moved to Flight's home, but Picard told The New Hampshire Union Leader it was Flight who maintained the ledger.

Flight retired in 2010 amid an investigation. Town officials never said publicly what that probe involved or why Flight retired. However, in the just released investigative file concerning the missing rifle, Auburn police Lt. Charles Pelton said, "He left because cash missing from evidence room; failed policy; referred to AG; he ended up retiring — no charges."

Picard would not comment on that investigation or why Flight retired.

The rifle became the subject of an investigation when officers were doing an inventory of the evidence room, in anticipation of having a judge approve forfeiture of some guns, which the department planned to sell to Riley's Gun Shop in Hooksett. Picard said the department used the credit from Riley's to buy ammunition and needed weapons.

In 2009, Flight's wife obtained a domestic violence petition against him, requiring him to turn in his weapons, 17 in all. No charges were brought and ultimately the weapons were returned to him, except for an illegal sawed off shotgun that police destroyed.

It was during the inventory that officers realized a rifle, confiscated during a 1992 investigation into a home invasion, was missing. An officer put the serial number for the weapon into the computer program, and it turned up as being one of the guns turned in by Flight and later returned to him.

As a result, Picard asked the Attorney General's Office to investigate.

The 250-page investigation, released after the New Hampshire Union Leader filed a Right-to-Know request, depicts an angry Flight lashing out at the department, telling investigators former Police Chief Lloyd Wood — who left office more than 20 years ago — had carried in an ankle holster a stainless police special taken from evidence. He left, Flight said, because he had dated Ed Socha's secretary and knew that the Parker-Milne mansion, where Socha lived and which burned to the ground in 1984, had been set on fire. Wood, Flight told investigators, never told anybody what he knew.

Socha, a millionaire Manchester developer, years later went to prison for the arson, insurance fraud of more than $1 million and witness tampering.

Flight also maintained it was not uncommon for Picard to call Flight and ask "what do we have that was taken away?" I need a BB gun or I need .22 rifle, Flight said Picard would ask, telling investigators he believed he gave Picard at least two BB guns and one or more .22 rifles.

Picard denies the allegations and told investigator Paul Brodeur he had a Daisy BB gun that he used to scare away squirrels from his bird feeder.

The chief also was asked whether he had given Flight an old shotgun that would have been of no value. He said no, but told the story of "years and years ago" of pulling over a driver who was in a clown's outfit. When the clown opened his glove compartment, there was a sawed-off shotgun in it. The clown driver was arrested and the gun confiscated.

It went into the evidence locker, Picard said, and then up to the state Police Standards & Training Academy to be used for training purposed. It was later returned to Auburn police and returned to the evidence locker.

Brodeur told the chief he was talking about a .12 gauge Beretta over and under shotgun that had a cut off barrel. Picard said the one he recovered was a side-by-side double barrel.

Flight also said it was common practice in the case of a minor in possession of alchol for police to dispose of the beer, once the case was adjudicated, by putting it out on a table and announcing whoever wanted it could take it. Capt. Gary Bartis, he said, took most of it.

Flight recalled Picard saying something to the effect that, "the judge told us to destroy it but he didn't say it couldn't be filtered through our kidneys first."

Picard told investigators that he was joking when he said that, and while that happened years and years ago, it had not happened since the Kingston case, a New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling issued in 1986. Flight was hired in 1989, however.

The Kingston case involved the motor vehicle death of a 16-year-old girl in 1982. Two Kingston officers had stopped the car filled with teens, confiscated what was left of a case of beer and sent the teens on their way. The teens drove to Haverhill, Mass., where they bought some more beer, went to a drive-in and drank it. Later that night, the car crashed, killing the 16-year-old girl and injuring two others, including a 13-year-old girl.

The Flight investigation resulted in changes to the Auburn police evidence room, Picard told investigators. No one can enter it now without being in the company of an evidence technician and everyone is videotaped while inside the room.

Picard said that, unfortunately, previous security had been a bit too lackadaisical.

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