Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance Charges Manchester Police Officer Following Hit & Run Incident in Bedford
Offers details of incident. Manchester Police Terminate Accused Officer.
BEDFORD NH–March 26, 2013 Noon: Flanked by officers of the Bedford Police Department, County Attorney Patricia LaFrance detailed the charges against Stephen Coco, a detective sergeant in the Manchester Police Department’s Special Investigative Unit in wake of a hit and run accident that left two Bedford teens wounded on the roadside in their neighborhood Friday night.LaFrance said Coco, a 17 year veteran officer with MPD who turned 41 on March 8th, was arraigned this morning in Merrimack District Court on two counts of felony conduct after an accident. Coco turned himself into Bedford Police early this morning and was quickly arraigned by a special judge who was called in to sit on a case that was expected to consume the entire day in court. LaFrance said photos of Coco would not be released for fear that disclosing his identity would jeopardize undercover work he was involved with.
On Friday night around 9:20, BPD was called to 31 Harrod Lane for a reported hit and run accident. Once on the scene, the discovered two young men, one 17, the other 18, had been struck by a vehicle. Police say they were struck from behind. One teen suffered head injuries. Both have since been released from the hospital. While not confirming that the vehicle was identified by one of the stricken pedestrians, LaFrance did say one was able to provide some data on the vehicle.
From that information, the Bedford department was able to determine that the vehicle was an unmarked Manchester Police vehicle. After being notified by the Bedford department, Manchester determined it was assigned to undercover officer Stephen Coco, who was off duty at the time of the accident. Following an internal investigation, which department officials say is ongoing, Coco’s employment by the department yesterday.
Bedford has seized the vehicle and stored it at an undisclosed location. LaFrance declined to answer when MPD was notified that their vehicle was involved or when they identified Coco as the person to whom the vehicle was issued. When asked why Coco was only arrested this morning given the earlier identification of him as the driver, LaFrance would only say they had to wait until there was enough evidence to issue the arrest warrant.
LaFrance would not comment on whether or not alcohol was a factor in the crash, referring us to the arraignment documents placed on file by her office with the Merrimack District Court. LaFrance also said that once the investigation and the case file was complete, she would request that another county attorney handle the case to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest given the close working relationship between the County Attorney’s Office and the Manchester Police Department. Once discovering the offender was a Manchester police officer, Bedford investigators notified LaFrance whose office stepped in to oversee the investigation.
We will continue to update you on this situation as events warrant.