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Kilton Library Arrest Raises Concerns About Use of Force (Video)

  • From left, Janice Lacey, Joan Williams and Beverlee Merrill, all of West Lebanon, N.H., walk to the grand opening of The Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon on July 18, 2010. (Valley News - Patrick T. Fallon) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, November 09, 2017

West Lebanon — Kilton Public Library patrons who saw two plainclothes Lebanon police officers arrest an 18-year-old Lebanon man inside the Main Street building on Tuesday have raised questions about how the situation was handled.

Upper Valley residents Mary Cain and Kevin Leveret witnessed the incident and said they believe Sgt. Richard Norris and Detective Alan Lowe used unreasonable force when they took Jacob Seace into custody.

The officers were at the library seeking evidence from Seace’s cellphone in connection with a different case. Seace allegedly tried to flee the library with the device and subsequently resisted arrest, resulting in two misdemeanor charges.

“It seemed that they had used excessive force on this particular 120-pound individual,” an upset Cain said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “His face was stuffed to the carpet.”

Cain pulled out her cellphone and recorded the arrest. She later posted the video to YouTube.

“It was brute force,” Leveret said in an interview inside the library. “It was like a takedown ... and that shouldn’t happen in a library.”

Cain took the video while sitting near where Seace was arrested, just outside of a conference room in the center of the library. The two-minute video, which has audio, only briefly shows the interaction between the officers and Seace, who is seen face down on the carpet while kicking his feet.

Throughout the video, the officers can be heard giving stern commands, such as “Give us your hands, now,” while Seace yells in apparent pain.

“You’re hurting me,” Seace says, his voice quavering.

About a dozen library patrons — from young children to senior citizens — were inside the library at the time. A family in the nearby periodicals room can be seen gathering their belongings and leaving. A patron is overheard on the video accusing the officers of violating Seace’s civil rights and describing the confrontation as an “assault.”

What the video doesn’t show is what transpired in the minutes — and days — before the recording started, Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello said.

The officers went to the library around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday to speak with Seace about an ongoing investigation into what Mello described only as a computer crime.

The officers took Seace into the conference room and spoke with him about evidence they believed he had on his cellphone, Mello said.

Instead of handing over the device, Seace tried to leave the conference room with the alleged evidence, according to Mello, a move that resulted in the officers’ decision to take Seace into custody. The officers didn’t have a search warrant for the device, but they didn’t need one, Mello said.

Based on their investigation, the officers believed Seace’s cellphone might have contained evidence of a crime and might have been used in the commission of a crime. Because Seace could have destroyed that evidence if he had been allowed to leave with his cellphone, the police didn’t need a search warrant to look for that evidence, Mello said.

“We don’t need a search warrant to see it if there is exigency,” Mello said.

“The reason he ended up on the ground was because of his own actions,” he added of Seace.

Police charged Seace with resisting arrest and obstructing government administration, a charge that relates to him allegedly attempting to leave with the cellphone.

Mello maintained that his officers used the “minimal amount of force that was necessary” for the arrest.

The officers didn’t go to the library with the intent of arresting Seace, Mello said, but rather to talk to him about the investigation of the computer crime. Mello declined further comment on the investigation. Seace has not been charged in connection with that alleged incident.

“There is absolutely no indication from the video and from the information I got from the officers that there was excessive force. In fact, in my opinion, they acted extremely reasonably,” Mello said. “You can clearly hear the officers not being aggressive and verbalizing to stop resisting. They are doing everything they can to take him into custody without using more force than necessary.”

Mello said it was “unfortunate” the situation unfolded inside the library. It was the second time in three months that a teenager has been arrested at the facility.

“Unfortunately, sometimes we can’t control those things,” Mello said.

Kilton Library Director Sean Fleming said Tuesday’s incident was “disturbing” for staff and patrons.

Fleming reserved judgment on the officers’ actions because he said he wasn’t privy to all of the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

However, he did express a wish that police officers in the future would conduct such interviews outside the library.

“I wished that it had not happened in here,” Fleming said.

Mello acknowledged that it would be better if officers handled investigations outside of public places such as libraries.

He reiterated that the officers went to the library only to speak with Seace about the investigation. They assumed the conversation would be brief and Seace would return to his business in the library after the discussion, Mello said.

Leveret, the White River Junction man who was in the library at the time of the arrest, questioned why a uniformed officer wasn’t present.

At first, he said, he thought there was a fight among three residents. It wasn’t until he saw handcuffs that he realized police officers were involved.

“The clandestine stuff ... this is not Russia,” Leveret said. “It should be overt.”

Mello said it’s common for detectives to wear plainclothes and conduct their business without a uniformed patrol officer. The department doesn’t have the manpower to do otherwise, he said.

In general, detectives will be accompanied by a uniformed officer if they go to a place with the intent of arresting someone, he said.

The arrest was not captured on a body camera because the Lebanon Police Department issues them only to uniformed officers.

Cain, the woman who recorded the video, said she will not return to the Kilton Library.

Seace’s arrest is the second disturbing incident that she has come into contact with at the library in the last three months, she said.

Tyler Benson, 19, of White River Junction, was arrested inside the Kilton Library in August on charges that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl in a bathroom there.

Cain said that she had spoken to Benson and other teenagers about “horsing around” prior to the arrest, which she didn’t witness.

Libraries are designed to be safe, quiet places, she said.

“It is a sad situation,” said Cain, a mother of three children in their 20s. “I just wish I wasn’t there (on Tuesday). I wish I hadn’t gone.”

Cain said she voiced her displeasure about how the police conducted themselves to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. Mello said his department reviews every incident where any amount of force is used, and will do so in this case.

Seace is known to library staff, and Fleming said he has had “some issues” at the library in the past. Seace has been asked to leave the library “on occasion.”

In one instance, Fleming said, other teenagers were picking on him and he responded with inappropriate language.

Police released Seace on $500 personal recognizance bail on Tuesday. He is scheduled to appear in Lebanon District Court on the two misdemeanors in January.

A message left for Seace wasn’t immediately returned.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.



Mary Cain, a library patron, recorded this video at Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2017, and posted it to YouTube. Continue reading after the video.