February 17. 2013 9:06PM

North Hampton man injured in Seabrook police chase files suit

Union Leader Correspondent

BRENTWOOD - A North Hampton man is suing the town of Seabrook and one of its police officers after his truck was hit as police chased another driver on Route 1.

Colin Chevalier filed suit against the town and officer Jeremy Tetreault, claiming Tetreault was driving negligently when he crashed his cruiser on the night of Feb. 5, 2010.

In the suit, filed in Rockingham County Superior Court, Chevalier says he was driving eastbound on Route 111 in North Hampton when he proceeded through a green light at the intersection of Routes 111 and 1 at the same time that Tetreault was headed northbound on Route 1 "at a speed in excess of 100 mph in a 35 mph zone."

The suit accuses Tetreault of "unlawfully" proceeding through a red light, which "negligently caused a violent collision" with Chevalier's truck.

The pursuit began when Tetreault attempted to stop a car on Route 1 in Seabrook after he saw that its tail lights weren't on.

When the female driver of the car failed to stop, Tetreault began pursuing the vehicle north on Route 1 through Hampton Falls, Hampton, and eventually into North Hampton where the cruiser collided with the pickup truck at the Route 111 intersection.

Police later caught up with the fleeing driver and her two female passengers in Portsmouth after they ditched the car and took off on foot. They were arrested on several charges, including drug possession.

Among other things, the suit said Tetreault "had a duty to keep a proper lookout, to drive his vehicle with due regard for safety of all persons, to operate at a safe speed, to use due care in the operation of his police cruiser, to reasonably apply his brakes to avoid other vehicles," and to keep the cruiser under control to prevent injuries to others.

As a result of the crash, Chevalier suffered severe injuries to his back, neck, and head, along with left thumb pain, multiple cuts and abrasions, anxiety, and other related symptoms, the suit said. The injuries have also led to substantial medical expenses, the suit said.

Chevalier also maintains the town of Seabrook is liable for Tetreault's actions on the day of the accident, arguing the town was negligent in hiring, training and supervising Tetreault.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

A State Police report on the accident found Tetreault - a Seabrook police officer since 2008 - violated state laws by driving at an unreasonable speed that put the safety of others at risk.

The cruiser was totaled in the accident.

Seabrook Selectman Brendan Kelly, board chairman, said he couldn't comment on the case. He referred questions to the town's attorneys, but he wasn't sure which attorney was defending the town.

A police department employee who answered the phone also referred questions to the town offices and declined to identify the town's attorney involved in the case.

Interim Town Manager Joseph Titone was unavailable for comment Friday.

In an unrelated case, Tetreault was sued by a Massachusetts man in 2010 who claimed that he used excessive force when he fired multiple rounds at him during a high-speed chase in 2007.

Derek Soucie of Dracut filed a federal lawsuit following the pursuit on Route 1 on Sept. 1, 2007. The chase began in Amesbury, Mass., and Tetreault became involved when it entered Hampton Falls, where he was working as a police officer.

The state Attorney General's office investigated the shooting and concluded Tetreault's actions were justified.

According to its report, Tetreault repeatedly ordered Soucie to stop driving, but Soucie rammed Tetreault's cruiser with his van. Soucie narrowly missed driving into Tetreault, who had been standing in the spot where the cruiser was hit just moments earlier.

"Officer Tetreault, fearing for his life and believing that he had no other alternative to protect himself, discharged his sidearm six times, striking the van in the passenger side sliding door and passenger door area," the report said.

Soucie was struck in the arm.

The town settled Soucie's suit in 2011 by agreeing to pay him $37,500. However, the town admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement and Soucie agreed to drop all his claims.