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Newburyport Daily News 04/02/03

Man shoots himself after chase


Staff writer

TOPSFIELD -- A young Newburyport man led state police on a 30-minute chase through three North Shore towns only to end the pursuit by turning a gun on himself, police said.

Jesse Kovacs, 22, was immediately taken by medical helicopter to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston for treatment of "a self-inflicted gunshot wound," according to state police.

He was listed in critical condition late last night.

Police were apparently pursuing Kovacs in connection with a recent armed robbery in Haverhill, state police sources said.

The chase began at 2 p.m. when the young man, behind the wheel of a black Honda Civic, refused to stop for a state trooper, prompting a "slow speed" pursuit through Georgetown, Boxford and into Topsfield, said State Police Sgt. Edward Principe.

"Speeds never exceeded 35 mph," Principe stressed.

He would not identify the trooper who led the chase, nor would he say why the trooper wanted to stop the car, noting the incident remains under investigation.

After Kovacs was "boxed in" by state troopers and forced to slow down, the Civic spun out near a home at 125 Main St. (Route 97), coming to rest sideways in the northbound lane of traffic.

Police did not open fire, but Kovacs apparently fired one shot, and then another when he turned the gun on himself, said a state police source who asked not to be identified last night.

Principe said state police decided to end the chase by stopping the car because they were nervous Kovacs would keep driving toward the nearby Proctor Elementary School, where children were scheduled for release minutes later.

"We were fearful of him heading toward the school," Principe explained.

Andrea Panella and Marguerite Sullivan were working inside a home at 132 Main St. when the chase ended right outside their front door.

"We were painting when we heard sirens and we looked outside and saw the police were out there with guns," Sullivan explained.

Panella and Sullivan said after the shots were fired they saw police rushing toward the Civic. Panella said she could clearly see the young man sitting behind the wheel of the car, bleeding from the left side of his head.

Traffic in front of the crime scene was blocked for hours while police combed the Honda for evidence and photographed the scene.

In addition to a state police crime scene unit, representatives from state police headquarters and Essex County District Attorney Jon Blodgett's office also responded.

According to the Newburyport resident list, Kovacs lives on Spofford Street. Past police logs show he has faced charges of assault and battery, breaking and entering, and possession of drugs. In July, 2001, he was sentenced to 14 months in jail for possession of heroin, according to Daily News archives.

If Kovacs survives, it was unclear last night what charges he would face. The incident remains under investigation by troopers assigned to Blodgett's office.
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