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Surprise in Waltham over police chief's arrest

Posted by Tom Coakley  June 15, 2012 01:40 PM

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Waltham officials reacted with surprise and concern today over the arrest of city police Chief Thomas M. LaCroix by Maynard police on multiple charges, including two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and intimidating a witness.

"It surprises me,’’ said Kenneth Doucette, Waltham City Council vice president, “but it’s early on in the investigation, so we'll have to wait to see." Doucette said that many people were also astonished by the arrest.

Doucette said while he did not know LaCroix personally, the two know each other through working for the city. He described LaCroix as an accomplished chief.

“He’s always been very professional in his responses and sharing his thoughts for the safety of the public and his department,” Doucette said, adding that the chief is usually commended as a thoughtful communicator.

LaCroix’s was taken into custody Thursday around 4:30 p.m. after an alleged violent outburst at his Maynard home.

According to Maynard police, LaCroix is charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for allegedly striking the unidentified victim with a bicycle rack and a counter top. He is charged with two counts of assault and battery, one count of assault, and one count of intimidating a witness, officials said.

LaCroix was in Emerson Hospital today amid concerns by Middlesex prosecutors that he may be suicidal following his arrest.

But LaCroix’s defense attorney Peter Bella said that he had met with LaCroix for 90 minutes and is convinced his client is not suicidal. “He’s doing well. He has some concerns about some chest pains and some stomach problems,’’ Bella told reporters. “I have no concerns about suicidal thoughts he may have, or may have expressed at some earlier time.’’

Bella said he does not know the details of the allegations against the 49-year-old LaCroix, who was scheduled to be arraigned in the hospital Friday afternoon.

In an e-mail today, Waltham Mayor Jeannette A. McCarthy called the arrest of LaCroix a “serious matter.’’ She said she has named Deputy Chief Keith MacPherson as acting chief.

The mayor, who appointed LaCroix to the top cop’s job in 2008, said LaCroix has now been suspended with pay. LaCroix joined the Waltham force in 1986.

McCarthy said in an email that his badge and service weapon are now in the custody of Watham police.

She referred further questions to the Middlesex District Attorney’s office.

Meanwhile, State Representative Thomas Stanley, a Waltham Democrat who serves as a Waltham councilor-at-large, also said he views the issue as a serious matter.

“Professionally, I’ve never seen any issues as far as my working with him,” Stanley said.

Waltham Councilor-at-large Joe Vizard said has a good relationship with the chief, and was surprised at the news of LaCroix’s arrest.

“Clearly, the allegations are disturbing,” Vizard said. “It’s shocking.”

On Main Street, John Savreau, a Waltham native, who said he has known LaCroix for over 30 years and has played softball with him, said he has never seen the chief "distraught or angry."

"He's always been very professional,'' he said.

Savreau said that he has never heard of LaCroix being angry toward anyone but he noted that LaCroix has been under a good deal of stress since taking over as chief.

"It's saddening and disheartening,'' he said.

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