Man accused in shooting let out of jail on house arrest

Courtesy photoJoseph Sweeney, left, and Daniel Doherty appear via video conference for a dangerousness hearing before a Haverhill District Court judge on June 22.

The local man who police say fired shots into homes on West Lowell Avenue in Haverhill, missing a sleeping husband and wife by three feet, has been released from jail.

His release came after a Superior Court judge overturned a lower court's ruling that would have kept him behind bars while his case is pending.

Joseph Sweeney, 20, appeared in Salem Superior Court for a bail review hearing June 26, where Judge C. William Barrett ruled Sweeney is a danger to society, but does not need to be held behind bars, according to District Attorney's office spokeswoman Carrie Kimball.

That ruling reversed an earlier decision by Haverhill District Court Judge Mary McCabe, who said Sweeney should be kept behind bars. Barrett's ruling released Sweeney to around-the-clock GPS monitoring at his parents' home on Crystal Street in Haverhill.

According to Kimball, Sweeney may only leave the house for medical, court and probation appointments. He must remain drug and alcohol free, submit to random drug and alcohol screenings and have no contact with the victims, witnesses or co-defendant in the case, Kimball said.

Police linked Sweeney and his co-defendant, Daniel Doherty of Methuen, to the shooting after a car crash near Sweeney's home on June 19. Officials said several homes were hit in the shooting shortly after 1 a.m. June 19, but no one was injured. It is unclear whether the shooting was random or if someone was targeted, police said.

According to a police report, Doherty, 22, had a blood alcohol level that registered .09% when he crashed the 2009 gray Toyota Camry he was driving into a utility pole near 46 Crystal St. at 1:47 a.m. The legal blood alcohol limit is .08%.

Officers sent to the crash found a black and brown gun with one round in the chamber inside a black duffel bag Sweeney was holding on his lap when police arrived, the report said. Officers also found two rounds of ammunition inside his pocket and one casing from a discharged round of ammunition, according to the police report. Sweeney could not produce a firearm identification card or a license to carry a gun, the report said. He was then arrested.

Doherty refused to perform a field sobriety test, the police report said, and was arrested and charged with operating under the influence of liquor.

Once Doherty's car was searched by police, additional ammunition — including one .380-caliber round and one spent .380-caliber casing — were found, along with cash, drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to the police report.

After the crash, police responded to the area of 896 West Lowell Ave. for a report of shots fired earlier. The caller told police she heard seven shots outside her home around 1:30 a.m. According to the report, .380-caliber automatic shell casings were found in the street, including one Winchester shell that was crushed.

Another West Lowell Avenue neighbor reported bullet holes in her home when she woke up that morning, the police report said. The homeowner found that a bullet had entered her bedroom just below a window, according to the report. Police said they found the bullet under an electric baseboard heater three feet from a bed where the woman and her husband slept.

At a court hearing in the days after the shooting, Assistant District Attorney Stephen LaMonica said because ammunition was found in Doherty's car after the crash, police decided to investigate the men and interview them in relation to the shooting on West Lowell Avenue.

During a police interview, Sweeney said he did not know there was a gun in the car, but said the duffel bag and marijuana and clothing inside it were his, according to the police report. Sweeney told police the shell casing in his pocket was probably there because he "went shooting with his friend in New Hampshire earlier," but he would not name that friend, the report said.

In his interview with police, Doherty denied knowing there was a gun in the car or anything about the bullet casing found in Sweeney's pocket, the police report said.

Later, according to the report, Doherty "finally said that Sweeney was just being stupid and shot the gun out the window" of their vehicle.

In his interview with police, Doherty said he told Sweeney to put the gun away, the police report said. Doherty told police that Sweeney fired the gun enough times to make Doherty angry, according to the report.

As a result of Doherty's statements and the investigation into the shooting, Sweeney was also charged with four counts of assault and battery with a firearm, two counts of malicious destruction, and one count of discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, according to court records. Both men also face various firearms and drug possession charges stemming from the car crash.

Doherty remains on house arrest as ordered by District Court Judge McCabe and next appears in court later this month. Sweeney's next hearing date is in mid-August.

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