BEVERLY — A Manchester-by-the-Sea police sergeant arrested outside his Beverly home early Saturday, after allegedly firing a gun during a domestic dispute, will remain held without bail pending a hearing today to determine whether his release will pose a danger to his wife or the public, a judge ordered.
John H. “Jay” Swallow, 54, pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges that include assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, discharging a firearm within a dwelling, and three counts of improper storage of a firearm. He was arraigned in Salem District Court, where details of what triggered the dispute emerged.
Police found numerous guns, as well as four samurai swords, owned by Swallow, as well as a “huge cache” of hundreds of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition in the basement of the Devon Avenue home. The guns in the basement belong to an Ipswich man who is currently deployed in Afghanistan, police said.
Swallow’s wife, who had fled to a neighbor’s home before the gun went off, told police the couple had been arguing on Friday night. As the argument escalated, Swallow allegedly assaulted his wife.
“If you want to treat me like this, I would testify against you,” his wife allegedly told him, referring to an ongoing New Hampshire investigation into allegations that Swallow had indecently assaulted a family member, according to a police report.
According to the police report, Swallow was “enraged” and went to his bedroom, then returned to his wife’s bedroom holding a silver Ruger handgun. Swallow grabbed his wife’s shirt and pointed the gun at her, then at the head of her dog, a dachshund, which he threatened to kill.
His wife told Swallow to leave, but when he refused, she pushed past him and ran outside, according to the police report.
As she approached her neighbor’s home, she heard a single gunshot, she told police.
The couple’s neighbors called 911.
Swallow, arrested just after midnight, told police that the gun went off accidentally while he was putting it away in his nightstand.
Prosecutor Jane Prince described how the bullet hit a wooden door, then a wall behind the door, and finally went into a dresser, where it was found when officers opened a drawer.
Swallow was outside when police arrived, and he was cooperative, telling them he did not want them to get hurt.
His wife told police that her husband had never threatened her or put her in fear. Yesterday, Swallow’s attorney, Ronald Ranta, said the wife does not want Swallow to be held.
Prosecutors are concerned, however, that Swallow poses a danger and are seeking to have him held without bail at Middleton Jail for up to 90 days.
The guns and weapons belonging to Swallow included four Rugers; two Beretta handguns; four Smith and Wesson handguns; additional guns by Colt, Taurus and ACP; a Bushmaster assault rifle; a Springfield Arms double-barrel shotgun; a Savage Arms hunting rifle; a Winchester shotgun; two BB guns; an antique black powder rifle; and four samurai swords, along with ammunition and cans of black powder.
Because black powder is considered unstable, the state fire marshal’s office was notified, according to the police report.
In addition, police pulled a collection of guns, including some antiques, from the basement of the home.
Ranta, Swallow’s attorney, said those guns and ammunition belonged to Timothy Perkins Jr., who recently inherited them from his father, late longtime Ipswich attorney Timothy Perkins, an avid hunter. Perkins Jr. is currently deployed in Afghanistan.
After Ranta told Judge Michael Lauranzano that Swallow’s wife, a nurse, does not want him held in custody, Lauranzano suggested they hold the required hearing to determine dangerousness immediately.
But the approach of Hurricane Sandy had led to court officials ordering the building closed at noon, leading to the delay until today. The courts were expected to reopen by noon.
Ranta declined to comment on the pending New Hampshire investigation. Swallow’s wife did not seek a restraining order yesterday.
Swallow has been suspended without pay from the Manchester Police Department, according to Daniel Brown, the town’s labor counsel. Brown said Swallow is also facing administrative disciplinary action “up to and including discharge” from the department, pending a hearing before the town administrator.
Swallow’s wife and other family members declined to comment as they left court.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.