HAVERHILL, N.H. — New Hampshire State Police confirmed Tuesday its Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) helped arrest a suspect federal prosecutors say is linked to a homicide in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
John E. Welch, 33, of North Haverhill, was taken down at gunpoint by State Police SWAT members on the federal arrest warrant Friday evening in a parking lot of a convenience store on Dartmouth College Highway in North Haverhill, Detective Capt. Joe Ebert said.
The arrest came after a motor vehicle stop and troopers turned Welch over to authorities from Vermont, Ebert said.
A New Hampshire State Police spokeswoman had denied on Monday the department was involved in the arrest. Ebert said that turned out to be incorrect.
A federal prosecutor in Burlington, Vt. said Monday in court papers there is evidence linking Welch to the handgun used in the fatal shooting of Michael Pimental, 37, of Waterford last October.
Pimental’s bullet-riddled body was spotted by the property owner at 1549 Victory Road in Concord about 11:30 a.m. Oct. 14, 2018. Pimental was along the wooded edge of the driveway.
He received gunshot wounds to head, torso and extremity, officials said. The death was ruled a homicide and Pimental died within seconds of being struck.
A co-owner of Aldrich’s General Store said the dinner time arrest caused a lot of excitement at the business known for its popular deli and Mobil gasoline in North Haverhill, across the Connecticut River from Bradford.
“We were bombarded. It was pretty visual,” said Victor Dube, one of the store owners.
Dube said he got a call from one of his clerks explaining what went down in the parking lot as customers were stopping by.
“It was hectic in the parking lot. We came down,” Dube said Tuesday morning. “They (state police) were wrapping up.”
Dube said he was not able to learn much Friday night from police, but finally was able to discover details from a newspaper story Tuesday morning.
“I was just reading The Caledonian-Record,” he said. “I was going to call state police.”
Authorities have not said where Pimental was killed. He lived in Waterford in Caledonia County, but his body was found about 15 miles away in Concord in Essex County.
Essex County State’s Attorney Vince Illuzzi, reached at a training seminar, said Tuesday he has not filed any charges related to the homicide.
Caledonian County State’s Attorney Lisa Warren, who was at the same seminar, did not respond to phone and text messages. There are no known charges in Caledonia County related to the killing.
More details are expected to be released about the homicide on Thursday when a hearing is held on the government’s request that Welch be detained pending trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Fuller said she believed she would need an hour to present evidence to support the detention request.
Welch, who said he works for a painting contractor in Bradford, Vt., was arrested on a federal warrant after a grand jury indicted him on a drug and gun charge.
“This case involves the defendant’s possession of the firearm used in the killing of Michael Pimental,” Fuller said in court papers Monday seeking Welch’s detention pending trial on a new federal gun and drug indictment.
“The government has recovered that firearm and has evidence which links the defendant to the firearm and implicates him in the homicide,” Fuller wrote in papers filed in U.S. District Court.
During his arraignment Monday, Welch denied a felony charge of possession of a 9-mm handgun while being an unlawful user and being addicted to a controlled substance on Oct. 13, 2018.
The date is one day before when Pimental’s body was found.
The Vermont Drug Task Force said in court papers last fall it had begun investigating Pimental and others in the Northeast Kingdom during July 2018 for trafficking heroin and fentanyl.
Welch is the fourth defendant arrested in the intertwined drug trafficking and homicide investigation.
Also facing federal charges in connection with the original drug investigation are:
Pimental’s former live-in girlfriend, Krystal Whitcomb, 27, of Duck Pond Road in Waterford; her father, Shawn Whitcomb, 51, of Concord and their friend Michael Anthony “Mo” Hayes Sr., 36, of Lyndonville.
They have all pleaded not guilty to their charges.