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Drunk off-duty state police captain pulled from lake

Sunday News Correspondent

July 16. 2017 2:03AM

ALTON - Police responding to a report of a brawl last July arrived to find an "extremely intoxicated" off-duty New Hampshire State Police captain, according to incident reports.

No charges were filed against Capt. Paul Hardcastle, and Alton police ultimately decided not to take him into custody for intoxication and instead let him sleep it off.

However, the July 2, 2016, incident may figure into the upcoming trial of a local man. Jeffrey Clay of Alton faces misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for his alleged conduct during a Feb. 22 selectmen's meeting. He claims he had been targeted for arrest and prosecution in retaliation for publicly criticizing the board for ignoring a citizen's complaint regarding the Hardcastle matter.

Jeffrey Clay of Alton faces misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for his alleged conduct during a Feb. 22 selectmen's meeting. Clay, shown here, claims he had been targeted for arrest and prosecution in retaliation for publicly criticizing the board for ignoring a citizen's complaint regarding New Hampshire State Police Capt. Paul Hardcastle. (Courtesy)

According to Alton police records, responding officers were told that Hardcastle, a 20-year state police veteran, was among those drinking alcohol at an Independence Day party in 2016, but was asked to leave the O'Neill Road gathering after making derogatory comments about some of the women there. As Hardcastle left, witnesses told police he toppled a parked motorcycle - damaging the left handlebar.

Property owner Scott Bulger told officers that he and other partygoers had intervened around 7:40 p.m. and pinned Hardcastle to the ground to keep him from trying to fight the owner of the damaged motorcycle.

Police reports identify the owner of the motorcycle as Scott Germain. NEShooters, LLC a firearms training facility in Hollis, lists a Scott Germain as a guest instructor and a 25-year veteran who earned his Green Beret in 1993 and spent the next 20 years in the Special Forces retiring in 2012 as a sergeant major. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

According to the police reports, Hardcastle denied causing any property damage the night of the party and told his wife that he thought someone had spiked his drink. No breath or blood tests were done.

Asked whether Hardcastle faced any disciplinary action in the wake of the incident, New Hampshire State Police Col. Christopher Wagner released the following statement:

"We take any and all allegations of misconduct very seriously and investigate each and every one. Internal personnel matters are confidential, but we want the public to know that we act on allegations of misconduct with the utmost urgency. The State Police will continue to comport itself in a manner befitting the public trust by exercising fairness, professionalism and integrity in all that we do. Alleged incidents of misconduct will be fully investigated and action will be taken when appropriate under rules and regulations."

Bulger told Alton police that his wife had overreacted in calling 911 and their assistance was no longer needed. The damaged bike had been moved into Bulger's garage and Hardcastle had returned to his camp down the street.

When officers went to Hardcastle's two-bedroom waterfront cottage to speak with him, his wife reported that he had run outside, that she had never seen him so angry or intoxicated, and that she didn't know where he was.

As Alton officers searched the area, they found Hardcastle swimming in Halfmoon Lake, and told him to come to shore so they could speak with him.

The written report of Officer Jamison Fellows said, "It was blatantly obvious that Paul was extremely intoxicated. His speech was slurred and the odor of an alcoholic beverage was coming from his mouth as he spoke."

Fellows documented that Hardcastle had difficulty getting out of the water and had to be supported by Cpl. Tyler Glidden in order for him to be able to stand, and not fall over backward into the water.

"During my conversation with Paul it was very hard to follow what he was saying," stated Fellows. "He went from telling us that he was going to be the next corporal of the state police and of all the important people he knew, to telling us about the house and Special Forces."

After Hardcastle complained of being cold and asked to go into his cottage and get a shirt, Officer Fellows escorted him. Hardcastle went into a bedroom, stopped at a dresser and showed Fellows a plastic card displaying his state police credentials.

"I told him I was aware of who he was and that he didn't need to show me the card," Fellows wrote.

According to Fellows' report, Hardcastle "stumbled around the yard for the next 30 to 40 minutes with Officer (Sean) Sullivan following behind holding him up."

Patrol Officer Brett Murray wrote in his report that at one time, Hardcastle attempted to give officers his business card. When Officer Fellows refused the card, Hardcastle collectively asked the officers, "if we were good."

Murray documented that Hardcastle's speech was deliberate and that he was slurring words to the point that he had to ask him to repeat what he had said several times to understand him. Alton police attempted several times to call a sober person to take custody of Hardcastle. They also documented that Hardcastle tried to use his cellphone several times, but couldn't operate it.

Murray wrote that Hardcastle continued to ask the officers "if we were good." Murry replied that they were spending a lot of time trying to find a sober person to take custody of him, and explained that they could be taking him to the Belknap County Jail.

According to Murray's report, Hardcastle replied that they couldn't take him to jail because he was in his house. Murray told Hardcastle he had been in an argument, caused property damage, had run when the police arrived and jumped in a lake, all while being extremely intoxicated.

"I explained it was very clear he was a danger to himself and others, that he met all the criteria for being placed in protective custody, and hence why we weren't leaving," Murray wrote.

Glidden instructed Murray to return to the Bulger residence "to confirm no charges were expected." The Bulgers told police they did not want Hardcastle arrested, explaining that they were all neighbors and that they would speak to him when he was sober and that they expected him to pay for the damage.

On July 13, 2016, the Alton Board of Selectmen received an anonymous letter that read, "As an Alton resident, I am ashamed of our police department for letting a NH State Police Captain get away with disorderly conduct, spousal abuse and damage to a motorcycle on O'Neil Road. Both Alton and NH State Police are aware of this."

Although the anonymous letter mentions an altercation between Hardcastle and his wife, police found no evidence of domestic violence, determining he had unintentionally pushed her aside as he left his cabin, according to the 2016 reports. She was not injured, and told officers that she did not feel threatened.

The board voted in public session that "no action would be taken" regarding the allegations contained in the letter to the town, because it was unsigned.

Clay's trial is scheduled for Aug. 1 in Laconia Circuit Court.

On Feb. 22, Clay, a well-known and vocal gadfly, once again found himself leaving a public meeting in handcuffs.

In the latest incident, Clay was speaking during the meeting's first public input section, where residents are restricted to three minutes to comment on agenda items.

After calling the board "incompetent" and "repulsive," Clay's remarks were deemed obstructive.

Reached last week by email, Clay wrote, "Alton is prosecuting me on August 1, claiming I resisted arrest because I allegedly moved my arm. This police captain jumps in a lake to avoid the police ... and they do nothing. Equal justice under the law? No!"

Crime, law and justice Public Safety Courts Alton

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