Detective arrested in hit-and-run had been visiting at fellow officer's homeBy MARK HAYWARD and PAT GROSSMITH
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 26. 2013 11:00PM
BEDFORD — The small gathering that preceded Friday's police-involved hit-and-run accident involved a circle of close friends visiting a neighbor whose leukemia-stricken son had just returned from chemotherapy, the New Hampshire Union Leader has learned.
On Tuesday, Manchester police Sgt. Stephen Coco was arrested and arraigned on felony charges stemming from the hit-and-run accident. Immediately, questions arose about why Coco was on Harrod Lane, a quiet, south Bedford residential street of about a dozen homes.
Steven Maloney, president of the Manchester Police Patrolman's Association, said he has heard speculation that a big party was taking place at the Harrod Lane home of Manchester police Officer Jeff Harrington. But Maloney said Harrington had just returned from Lebanon with his son, Nick, 18, and Coco and several neighbors were visiting.
During the brief gathering, Coco had one drink, said Maloney, who spoke to a distraught Harrington on Tuesday. Harrington broke up the visit about 9 p.m. to give Nick time to sleep, Maloney said. A source familiar with the situation said Coco and the other adults weren't even allowed inside the house, and gathered on a porch.
"It wasn't like a 2 o'clock in the morning party," Maloney said. "The last thing he (Harrington) needs is that kind of stress. It (the gathering) had nothing to do with what Steve (Coco) did."
Maloney said Harrington does not believe Coco, 41, was intoxicated when he left the house. The accident took place minutes later, about 9:20 p.m. Friday.
Authorities on Tuesday released details of the Harrod Road accident, which left Dean Drukker, 18, unconscious and suffering from bleeding on the brain. The other victim, Noah Hickman, 17, suffered a broken right elbow. Hickman lives on Harrod Lane; he ran to the house of a neighbor, a nurse, who called 911 and went to help Drukker.
According to court papers, Bedford police visited Coco's 29 Meadowcrest Drive home about 5 1/2 hours after the accident. He told investigators he had been home the night of the crash and that no one had used his department-issued, undercover 2007 Nissan Pathfinder that evening.
The investigators, however, had already matched a broken piece of a plastic lens, found at the Harrod Lane crash scene, with the SUV parked in Coco's driveway. The front hood of the vehicle was dented. The bumper cover was cracked. And the road and salt grime betrayed numerous rub marks, even a fabric impression that matched up with the clothes Drukker was wearing.
Coco faces two felony charges of conduct after an accident. Police Chief David Mara announced he fired Coco, a 17 1/2 year veteran of the force, for the violation of several department procedures. Those include not stopping at an accident and using an undercover police vehicle when off-duty.
SUV left road
Court papers say Drukker was knocked unconscious. His injuries prompted Bedford EMTs to activate the trauma team at Manchester's Elliot Hospital. Both teens, students at Bedford High School, are recovering from their injuries.
Hickman told police he saw the SUV leave 19 Harrod Lane, the home of Jeff and Stephanie Harrington.
As the vehicle approached, he and Drukker moved to the edge of the road, Hickman told police. The two were in front of Hickman's home at 31 Harrod Lane when they were struck.
After the accident, the SUV slowed at a stop sign, Hickman told police. It then continued on Tavistock Lane without stopping.
Police said the SUV was so far over to the right of the road that left driver-side tire tracks were found close to the edge of the pavement. The vehicle left the road, and came back on it before approaching the stop sign at the intersection of Tavistock Drive, the evidence showed.
Another member of the Harrington gathering, John Dow, said he left the home about 30 minutes after Coco, saw an accident scene down the road and drove in the opposite direction.
Investigators ended up impounding the Coco SUV. Coco is free on $20,000 personal recognizance bail. A probable cause hearing has yet to be scheduled.
A family's struggle
A source told the Union Leader that the only Manchester officers at the Harrington home that night were Coco and Harrington.
Maloney said Coco had gone to the house to bring money that had been raised for Harrington during a St. Patrick's Day boxing match at the Police Athletic League building.
In previous newspaper articles, the Union Leader reported that Nick Harrington was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. Five years later he was in remission. But now he is undergoing chemotherapy and blood transfusions at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth, Maloney said.
Jeff Harrington and his brother had brought Nick home from Lebanon that Friday, several sources said. "In some ways, the actions of Coco after he left the Harringtons have overshadowed and even added to the struggles the Harringtons are undergoing," one said.