Police say they’re continuing to look for a Vermont man — who has warrants for his arrest out of that state and Massachusetts — after he allegedly fled a crash scene in Walpole Wednesday, triggering schools and businesses in the area to go into lockdown.
At about 10:30 a.m., a be-on-the-lookout alert was issued via the Cheshire County dispatch center for a silver Mercedes with Vermont registration after its driver fled from a motor vehicle stop in Brattleboro, according to a news release from Walpole Police Chief Michael J. Paquette.
Westminster, Vt., resident Zachariah A. McAllister, 28, was reportedly behind the wheel, the release says.
About 20 minutes later, police spotted the vehicle heading north on Route 12 in Walpole at an estimated speed of more than 100 miles per hour, Paquette said in the release. The driver tried to turn right onto South Street, where the Mercedes collided with a Nissan Sentra, Paquette wrote.
The Sentra’s driver — who the release identifies only as a 72 year-old woman from Walpole — was taken to the hospital, according to Janet Clough, an administrator for the police department. Clough said she could not confirm the woman’s condition and declined to release her name until police have more information.
Following the crash, McAllister allegedly fled the scene on foot.
Walpole elementary and primary schools, on Bemis Lane and Bemis Lane extension, were placed under lockdown by the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office at about 11:20 a.m. as a precaution, according to a statement from the Fall Mountain Regional School District.
Superintendent Lori Landry “worked closely with the local law enforcement agencies, administration and local media to keep everyone informed of the situation as things progressed,” the statement, emailed to The Sentinel shortly before 2 p.m., said.
Walpole Village School, a daycare and preschool on Westminster Street, was likewise put under lockdown, according to a Facebook post from the Walpole Police Department.
The lockdown advisory for businesses and schools was lifted at about 1 p.m., according to Paquette, because McAllister was then thought to be in Vermont.
McAllister, whose license is suspended, fled the Brattleboro traffic stop after being told he was under arrest, according to a news release from the Brattleboro Police Department. He has multiple prior convictions for driving with a suspended license, the release said.
Court records show he also has a pending criminal case in Windham County, Vt., alleging he drove an ATV and a motorcycle on Morse Brook Road in Westminster July 5, despite his suspended license.
He was cited for the misdemeanor offense and given an Aug. 20 court date, which he failed to appear for, according to court records.
Known to police
McAllister has eluded the authorities at least twice before, according to statements by police and news reports.
Two winters ago, a Bellows Falls woman was charged with giving false information to thwart a police search for McAllister on Dec. 22, 2017. McAllister was wanted on burglary and other charges, according to a news release from Vermont State Police at the time. Vermont State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service located and arrested McAllister the following February, according to a police log published in the Brattleboro Reformer.
The underlying charges were later dismissed, court records show.
In 2013, according to another report in the Reformer, McAllister pleaded guilty to a 2011 burglary and other charges, and agreed to delay his sentencing to receive substance-misuse treatment. He was kicked out of the treatment program after a week — because he took a heartburn pill, he claimed — and evaded police for another month before his arrest, according to the Reformer. He was sentenced to more than two years in prison.
McAllister has also been convicted of aggravated domestic assault, a felony, and simple assault, a misdemeanor, in Vermont.
In New Hampshire in 2013, McAllister pleaded guilty in Sullivan County Superior Court to a misdemeanor charge of theft by unauthorized taking, according to a case summary from the court.
People at businesses in downtown Walpole said they weren’t necessarily shaken by Wednesday’s incident, but still made safety their top priority.
Sandy Shattuck, manager of Walpole Village Market on Main Street, said she was cautious before letting customers in.
“We had both doors locked, a sign on the front door saying to please use the back door, and if someone knocked, and if we recognized them, we’d let them in,” she said. “We tried not to disrupt business totally, but we were concerned about everyone’s safety.”
Just in front of the store at Jake’s Market and Deli, also on Main Street, owner Joan Ireland said they welcomed people inside because she didn’t want anyone “left on the street.” She also warned customers of the potential danger, and encouraged them to stay in the store if they could.
Selectman Peggy Pschirrer said she had just returned home from town hall when she heard word over some type of loudspeaker that people should lock their doors and stay inside.
She said she received updates from authorities and had full faith in everyone involved.
“I had complete confidence in their ability to handle everything and to keep us safe,” she said.
McAllister is believed to have crossed the Connecticut River into Vermont, according to the news release from Paquette.
Agencies that assisted Walpole police Wednesday include the town’s fire department, Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office, N.H. and Vermont State Police, the N.H. and Vermont Fish and Game departments, and police from Alstead, Charlestown, Chesterfield and Troy, as well as Bellows Falls and Chester, Vt. Keene police also responded with the department’s armored BearCat vehicle.
Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Walpole Police Department at 445-2058 or email@example.com, the Brattleboro Police Department at 802-257-7950 or the Westminster barracks of Vermont State Police at 802-722-4600. Vermont State Police stress that tips should be credible.