A man who died in State Police custody last week was beaten by as many as 20 police officers during a traffic stop in North Andover, according to the driver who gave a statement to investigators from the Essex County district attorney's office.
The driver was behind the wheel of a truck that stopped at a sobriety checkpoint on Wednesday night. His passenger, Kenneth Howe, was pulled by police out of the truck, beaten, and dragged before he collapsed next to a police cruiser, according to the driver, whose name has not been released. His taped statement was recounted for the Globe by attorney Frances A. King, who represents the Howe family and sat next to the driver when he spoke to investigators on Sunday.
The account from the driver differs sharply with what authorities have said about the death of Howe, 45, of Worcester. In a press release issued by the Essex County district attorney's office, authorities said that Howe was uncooperative when asked to step out of the truck and jumped out the passenger side window, striking a state trooper in the process.
Howe attempted to flee, but was caught after a brief foot chase. A brief struggle ensued and Howe was handcuffed and arrested for assault and battery on a police officer, according to the release. Troopers at the Andover barracks noticed that he was unresponsive during booking and took him to Lawrence General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:45 a.m., according to authorities.
The sobriety checkpoint was staffed by State Police, North Andover police and the Essex County Sheriff's Department. It was scheduled for the holiday evening and every car was stopped for a "threshold observation," according to authorities. State Police were drawn to Howe as he sat in the front passenger's seat of the truck because he made "furtive movements," authorities said.
According to the attorney representing the family, Howe had been trying to extinguish and conceal a marijuana cigarette and put on his seat belt.
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