Police: Sunderland man drove into crowd of Trump supporters

Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 03, 2020

WHATELY — A Sunderland man is facing a slew of charges after allegedly using a vehicle earlier this month to assault people at a pro-Trump demonstration and destroy yard-style signs before leaving the scene.

Joshua B. Martin, 29, was arraigned in Greenfield District Court earlier this month, where he pleaded not guilty to 15 counts. He was charged with four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon on a person age 60 or older, and single counts of malicious destruction of property valued at less than $1,200, not being in possession of a driver’s license, having no inspection sticker, leaving the scene of property damage, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, operating under the influence of drugs, possessing an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, failure to notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles of a name/address change, and a marked lanes violation.

Massachusetts State Trooper Bryce C. Molnar filed a police narrative that states he was on patrol in Whately at roughly 3 p.m. on Oct. 4 when he noticed a rally in support of President Donald Trump in the grassy area at the intersection of Routes 5 and 116. Most of the approximately 20 people in attendance were upset and pointing toward a white sedan down the street, Molnar wrote, and multiple people ran into the road to flag him down.

Witnesses allegedly told Molnar a white Volkswagen, which was by this time at a Circle K gas station just over the town line in Deerfield, had driven into the crowd of demonstrators, nearly striking several of them. They told the trooper they had barely gotten out of the way of the vehicle, which then ran over yard signs planted in the ground. One man claimed he jumped out of the way so abruptly his prescription eyeglasses fell off and got crushed by one of the vehicle’s tires.

Molnar reports he saw the Volkswagen leaving the gas station and stopped it. He identified the driver as Martin via a U.S. passport, as Martin did not have a driver’s license on him. The trooper asked Martin if he knew why he had been stopped and Martin said he had driven past a political rally and “flipped them off.” When Molnar asked what happened next, Martin allegedly replied, “Nothing. They are Trump supporters — they’re lying.”

According to Molnar, Martin seemed lethargic and “slightly out of it.”

Some demonstrators began congregating around the traffic stop, angrily indicating Martin as having tried to run them down. Molnar then radioed for another cruiser; Matthew O. Trombley and Sgt. Patrick Moynihan advised they were en route.

Molnar also reports he spoke with a witness who said the Volkswagen’s driver had stopped to yell at the Trump supporters before driving off the road.

Martin allegedly told Molnar he yelled at the demonstrators and inadvertently went off the road, accidentally hitting some signs. Moynihan got access to the gas station’s video footage of the incident, which police said showed the Volkswagen slow to a stop in front of the demonstrators, accelerate at the group off the road, accelerate again toward the crowd and then take off down the street.

“At this point the evidence overwhelmingly indicated this was an intentional and dangerous act, and the decision was made to place Martin under arrest,” Molnar’s narrative reads.

According to Molnar, Moynihan found a half-empty bottle of rum in a sock on the driver’s side floorboard. This and a pair of damaged eyeglasses were seized as evidence.

Once at the Northampton State Police barracks, Martin told police he was withdrawing from opiates and benzodiazepines. Martin allegedly said he buys these drugs on the “dark web” and has them shipped to his residence. Molnar detailed Martin’s difficulty with a standardized field sobriety test and a follow-up test to determine neurological function for balance.

Molnar also noted the Volkswagen was registered to an address in Grafton. Martin said he has lived in Sunderland for roughly two years and never updated his address with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Martin is expected to return to court for a pretrial hearing on Dec. 18.