LOWELL — A confrontation on city streets between a pack of dirt bikers and the driver of an SUV allegedly turned violent on Tuesday night.
A 23-year-old man who was operating a dirt bike was hospitalized after Lowell Police said Thomas Laflamme, 59, of Hudson, NH, used his SUV to chase him down and intentionally ram him in a parking lot off Pawtucket Boulevard.
The 23-year-old, who told police he was dragged under the SUV after the impact, according to court documents, has since been released from the hospital.
Lowell Police charged Laflamme with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, with the weapon identified as the SUV.
Lowell Police Deputy Superintendent Mark LeBlanc said on Thursday afternoon that the chaotic incident remains under investigation by the department’s Accident Reconstruction Unit.
At about 7:35 pm Tuesday, police reported in an emergency radio broadcast that there was a reckless group of about 20 apparently unregistered dirt bikers traveling outbound on Pawtucket Boulevard. About 15 minutes later, police reports available in court documents state officers were called to the Bowlero parking lot, in the 600 block of Pawtucket Boulevard, for reports of a dirt bike that had been struck by an SUV.
Police arriving on scene said in court documents that they found, among a throng of onlookers, a totaled dirt bike that had been smashed through a fence and into a dumpster, located in the back of the parking lot. Police also reported finding a red bumper, with a Subaru logo and a New Hampshire license plate.
The operator of the destroyed dirt bike was on the scene “crying in pain,” court documents state, and appeared to have severe skin abrasions and road rash to his arms and legs. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment, where court documents state he told police he was riding near Pawtucket Boulevard, at the Rourke Bridge, when the driver of an SUV “drove at him.”
Police reported that the 23-year-old said he entered the parking lot, with the SUV in pursuit, but stopped “to accost the operator” of the SUV, at which point the front of the SUV slammed into the rear of his dirt bike , causing him to go underneath the vehicle.
A woman who witnessed the incident, but wished to remain anonymous, said she saw the moment the vehicle made impact with the dirt bike, which she claimed was deliberate.
“He went flying and his bike slid between the dumpster and the fence,” the woman said.
The alleged victim told police he was dragged by the SUV, but was able to free himself, at which point he claimed the SUV backed up, striking him again, before fleeing the scene.
According to court documents, police determined the injured dirt biker was among the pack of 20 dirt bikes reported earlier traveling outbound on Pawtucket Boulevard. Of that group, police reported that just one dirt biker — a 25-year-old Haverhill man — stayed on the scene to assist his injured friend.
Court documents state the 25-year-old told police that the group of dirt bikers were attempting a U-turn from the outbound side of Pawtucket Boulevard to the inbound side of the roadway when they “were almost struck by a red Subaru.” He told police that “words were exchanged,” according to court documents, at which point he claimed the SUV driver started chasing the alleged victim’s dirt bike.
Court documents also state that several witnesses at the bowling alley provided police with details of the incident, as well as video footage. Police said witnesses recalled hearing engines revving and tires screeching, and then seeing a group of dirt bikes blocking the intersection. Court documents state witnesses claimed seeing a red SUV pursue one of the dirt bikes in circles in the roadway, before chasing the bike into the bowling alley’s parking lot.
“When asked, witnesses stated they would approximate the speeds to be around 40 mph,” police said in court documents.
Shortly after the crash, police reported making contact with Laflamme, who called authorities to insist he was the victim and that he had been chased by a group of dirt bikes while driving his vehicle. During the interaction with police, court documents state that Laflamme made no mention of a crash involving a dirt bike, although his vehicle was found to have significant front-end damage, including a missing front bumper.
In addition to the charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, court documents state Laflamme was charged with possession of a Class E drug, after police allegedly found him with three clonazepam pills without a valid prescription.
The day after his arrest, Laflamme appeared in front of Judge John Coffey in Lowell District Court for his arraignment and a dangerousness hearing. Court documents state Laflamme was determined to be a danger, but was released from custody with several conditions, which included having no contact with the victim or any witnesses.
Laflamme’s attorney, Peter Garrigan, declined comment, noting the case remains in its early stages.
Laflamme is scheduled to return to court for a pretrial hearing on Sept. 28.
According to LeBlanc, the 23-year-old victim was released from the hospital during the early morning hours on Wednesday.
Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis.