Charge upgraded in Brattleboro fight that preceded man's death last year

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Paul Cuno-Booth, The Keene Sentinel, N.H.
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Apr. 28—BRATTLEBORO — A felony assault charge has been filed in connection with a July 31 fight at the Econo Lodge in Brattleboro. The Vernon man who police say was assaulted, Thomas E. Davis, 49, died shortly afterwards.

Alex P. Symanski, 31, was charged in February with aggravated assault and arraigned March 30. He had initially been charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor, in the same case.

The aggravated assault charge accuses Symanski of causing, or attempting to cause, serious injury to someone "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."

The charge does not directly allege that Symanski caused Davis' death. According to police, there was a fight between Davis and a different man minutes after the alleged assault by Symanski, during which Davis collapsed and did not get up.

According to his death certificate, an autopsy found that Davis died from blunt impacts to his head and torso and ruled his manner of death a homicide, meaning the killing of one person by another. However, the authorities have not said whether they were able to link his death directly with any particular blow or blows.

Brattleboro police responded to the Canal Street motel around 5:45 a.m. June 31 for a report that Davis was covered in blood, yelling and threatening another person on the property, police said at the time. When first responders arrived, Davis was unconscious, and ultimately declared dead, police said.

In an affidavit, Brattleboro Detective Lt. Jeremy Evans wrote that Symanski and Davis arrived at the Econo Lodge, where Symanski was staying, around 4:15 a.m. on July 31 in Davis' truck. Surveillance footage showed them going into a room, where Symanski said they drank beer and smoked marijuana, then leaving and heading to a different room, according to the affidavit.

Two women who were in the second room said things were fine at first, but Davis grew disruptive, Evans wrote — screaming and throwing his phone, according to one of those witnesses. She said Symanski told Davis to leave but he wouldn't, and then Symanski hit him twice, according to the affidavit. The other woman said Symanski punched Davis in the head multiple times while he was on the ground.

According to video footage cited by Evans, Symanski then dragged Davis out of the room by his arm. A few minutes later, Davis got to his feet "unsteadily" and the two men walked to where Davis' truck was parked, Evans wrote.

The video showed Davis hitting his truck as if upset, then Symanski pushing him "seemingly unprompted" and then holding the front of Davis' shirt, according to the affidavit. They seemed to have a conversation, then Davis appeared to wrap his arms around Symanski, who pushed him away and punched him in the head while Davis' arms were by his side, Evans wrote.

Davis stumbled back, and his body and head hit the side of the building as he fell to the ground, according to the affidavit.

About five minutes later, Davis got up and started wandering around the parking lot, talking to himself, hitting multiple unoccupied vehicles and pretending to shoot a gun, Evans wrote. He then walked to a single-family home on the Econo Lodge property, banged on the door and sat on the porch, according to the affidavit.

Evans wrote that another man walked up to the porch and Davis appeared to attack him. The man knocked Davis down twice, punching him as he tried to get back up the second time, according to the affidavit. "It is difficult to tell where exactly he punches him," Evans wrote. "Shortly after this, Davis collapses onto the porch and does not move."

Two witnesses who saw the fight on the porch said Davis attacked the man, who defended himself, according to the affidavit. Both said Davis was yelling, and one said he was pointing his finger like it was a gun, Evans wrote.

The man was not reachable for comment, and The Sentinel is not identifying him because he has not been arrested or charged with a crime. Deputy State's Attorney Johns Congdon, who is prosecuting the case, said the matter remains under investigation.

Symanski initially told police he didn't know what had happened, but then said Davis was "saying a bunch of stupid [expletive]" out by the truck, according to the affidavit. Symanski later told police that Davis "grabbed" him, "so I pushed him back and hit him," and that once they were outside, "He started [expletive] getting on me, so I hit him again," Evans wrote.

Symanski has been released on conditions. Police described him as a Brattleboro resident in a July 31 news release. A more recent court document, dated March 30, lists an address in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Symanski's attorney, Janssen Willhoit, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @PCunoBoothKS