RANDOLPH — A local man being transported Thursday to the state prison in Berlin attempted to escape from custody by trying to steal a deputy sheriff’s cruiser as well as a passing vehicle before reaching his own car, which then got stuck on a snowmobile trail, according to the Coos County Sheriff’s Department.
The incident unfolded about 11:30 a.m. on Route 2. It began with a Coos County deputy sheriff picking up Robert Howard, 33, of Pinkham B Road in Randolph, at the Woodstock police station, where Howard was being held on a violation of his probation on the charge of falsifying physical evidence.
Howard, according to Coos County Sheriff Brian Valerino, was being taken to the New Hampshire Department of Corrections’ Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility when he asked the deputy if he could relieve himself.
The deputy stopped the cruiser on Route 2 on Gorham Hill and partially opened the door to let Howard go to the bathroom. The prisoner wore leg irons, and he also wore a handcuff on one wrist, anchored to a belly belt because his other wrist had been injured a day earlier.
Howard jumped the deputy, whom Valerino did not identify, overpowering the deputy and attempting to drive away with the cruiser, Valerino said.
During the ensuing struggle, the deputy regained control of the cruiser, but Howard then forcibly stopped a passing motorist and entered the rear of that vehicle, Valerino said. The deputy then used a Taser on Howard.
Unfazed, Howard plucked the Taser barbs from his skin and bolted, according to Valerino. The deputy, concerned Howard might try to commandeer another vehicle, kept traffic flowing on Route 2.
Valerino said Howard jumped a guardrail and made it to Pinkham B Road where he got into his own car and drove east toward Gorham on a snowmobile trail. After the car got stuck and became disabled, deputies were able to apprehend Howard.
The deputy who had been transporting Howard “did everything right,” Valerino said, adding that nothing like what happened Thursday has ever happened under his watch.
Valerino expects Howard to be charged with new offenses related to the escape attempt, but Valerino did not immediately have information about what those charges might be.
The incident is under investigation by state police. Anyone with information can call trooper Mike Bruno at 603-223-3796 or the Coos County Sheriff’s Office at 603-788-5598.
In addition to state police, the sheriff’s department was assisted by Gorham, Randolph and Berlin police, the state Division of Forests and Lands, and the state Bureau of Trails, according to Valerino.