, Salem, MA

March 26, 2013

Police: Man stealing knives from store was carrying gun


---- — SALEM — A man seen stealing hunting knives at Walmart on Sunday evening was also carrying a handgun stolen last year in a Salisbury house break, police said.

John P. Martin, 27, of 6 Foster Court, Salem, is now being held on $25,000 cash bail, following his arraignment in Salem District Court on charges that include receiving stolen property and carrying a firearm without a license.

“The concern we have is what was going to happen when Mr. Martin left the Walmart,” Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told a judge yesterday.

Police were sent to the Highland Avenue store just after 7:30 p.m. to take a report from the store’s security guard, who had Martin in custody.

The guard told Patrolmen John Bedard and William Riley that he saw Martin open a glass case and remove several knives, which he then removed from their packages and placed in his waistband.

During a pat-frisk, Bedard and Riley said they found not only five knives but a loaded handgun and extra ammunition, in a clip designed to hold 10 rounds. They also found a pouch containing 36 small bags of marijuana and 57 Neurontin pills, according to their report, which Prosniewski read in court.

The gun was later determined to be one of six guns stolen in a May 10 burglary on Bartlett Street in Salisbury.

Prosniewski told Judge Michael Lauranzano that Martin’s record dates back more than a decade and includes a 2003 incident in Peabody in which he was caught carrying another gun, a knife and martial arts weapons. According to a Salem News report on that arrest, Martin and a second teen were charged with breaking into a flea market on Howley Street. Martin was found to be carrying the weapons when he was arrested.

Since then, Martin has been arrested and served time in other cases, Prosniewski told the judge.

Martin’s lawyer, Patrick Regan, called the $25,000 request “excessive,” suggesting that $500 would be an amount his client could come up with.

He said his client had worked steadily as a mason until about two months ago, when work dried up because of the weather.

“There’s no evidence Mr. Martin had anything to do with any type of break-in (in Salisbury),” said Regan, who also noted that while Martin has had other charges against him in the past decade, he hasn’t faced a knife possession charge since 2003.

Regan also acknowledged that Martin has defaulted in some of his past cases, but “generally he does come to court.”

Lauranzano was not persuaded by Regan’s argument and granted the police prosecutor’s request, setting bail at $25,000.

Martin pleaded not guilty to charges of carrying a firearm and carrying ammunition without a license, carrying a large-capacity feeding device, receiving stolen property (the handgun), shoplifting, possession of marijuana and possession of a Class E controlled substance with intent to distribute, and violating the city’s knife ordinance.

After the judge set bail, Martin uttered a sarcastic, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” the judge said, leaning back with his arms folded across his chest.

A probable cause hearing is scheduled for April 22.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.