NH volunteer firefighter resigns over practical joke

Police say the firefighter stopped a friend in a marketplace parking lot using an old police cruiser and an air horn

By Clynton Namuo
The Union Leader

LEE, N.H. — Police yesterday identified a man who drove an old police cruiser and used an air horn to pull over another vehicle at the Lee Marketplace last week as a volunteer Epping firefighter who has since resigned.

Police Chief Chet Murch said Richard Santere Jr. stopped a friend in the Lee Marketplace parking lot last Tuesday in what was a practical joke. A passerby mistook it as a case of police impersonation and reported it to police after learning that Rochester has had two instances of police impersonation in recent weeks.

Lee police launched an investigation and identified Santere, who admitted what he did in an interview with police, Murch said. Rochester police said they also interviewed Santere and determined he was not involved with the incidents in that city.

"We did look into that and he has been ruled out as a suspect at this point," Rochester police Lt. Paul Toussaint said.

Santere drives an old police cruiser and has a light bar in the rear windshield and an air horn, both of which he is permitted to have as a volunteer firefighter, Murch said. Santere was not charged with a crime, though Murch said he likely would have been if he had used his lights to pull his friend over.

"He's somebody that actually had the authority to have emergency lighting and an air horn by statute, but not to be used in that manner," he said.

Murch said the law only addresses the improper use of emergency lights, not an air horn.

Santere resigned as a firefighter on Friday for "personal reasons," Epping Fire Chief Jeff LeDuc said. He said he only found out about Santere's involvement in the Lee incident yesterday after receiving a call from police there.

LeDuc said Santere could return to the Epping Fire Department as long as he goes through the application process once more, but noted that his department takes the use of emergency lights and horns seriously.

In the meantime, Rochester police continue to investigate two instances of police impersonation in that city.

Two women reported to police they were pulled over last month by a man driving a dark blue Ford Crown Victoria that appeared to be an old police cruiser.

The first woman said she was pulled over about 2:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve on Whitehall Road near Chamberlain Street. The other woman said she was pulled over about 9 a.m. Dec. 30 on Salmon Falls Road between Route 202 and Autumn Street.

Neither woman reported the man threatened or hurt them; both said they were sent on their way after what seemed to be a fairly typical traffic stop, police said.

The first woman described the man as being in his 30s, 6-foot-2, weighing 180 to 200 pounds, police said. She said he had a military-style haircut and a goatee and was wearing blue jeans and a blue windbreaker.

The second woman described the man as 6-foot-3 with an average build, short brown hair and clean-shaven, police said. She said he was wearing a light blue jacket, a long sleeve, button-up shirt, a striped tie and dark blue pants.

Police suspect the same man did both traffic stops, Toussaint said.

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