Lowell police officer arrested in connection with fatal crash



METHUEN, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) – A Lowell police officer was arrested Saturday on several charges, including operating under the influence and motor vehicle homicide, in connection with a fatal crash in Methuen.

Police responded to the scene of the crash in the area of Riverside Drive and Strathmore Road at about 12:30 a.m. After a preliminary investigation, police found that a Land Rover was traveling westbound on Riverside Drive while a Mountaineer was driving eastbound on the same street. The Land Rover apparently crossed over the double yellow line and collided with the Mountaineer, police say.

Briant Paula, 26, of Lawrence was driving the Mountaineer and became trapped in the car as a result of the crash. He was extricated by firefighters with the Jaws of Life, then transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Paula's brother Ira was devastated by the news, saying his brother was a good person that dedicated his life to his work and family.

"He was a caring person, everybody knows that. He was a caring person. That's all he does. Care for his family, that's it. Work to his home and that's it," he said.

Witness Jim Christofferson saw the crash unfold before his eyes.

"The whole inside of the car was like pushed into him. So I was afraid if she was gonna pull him out he was gonna be impaled," he said.

Christofferson was the person who called 911 after the crash initially happened. He also reported that he saw broken beers bottles in the Land Rover.

The driver of the Land Rover, Lowell Police Officer Eric Wayne, 41 of Lowell, refused medical treatment, police say. He was arrested and charged with operating under the influence of liquor, motor vehicle homicide, negligently, marked lanes violation, and open container alcohol. He was initially held on $100,000 cash bail pending his arraignment, but his bail was raised to $500,000 Saturday afternoon.

This is Wayne's second drunk driving arrest. The first happened last July 4th in Lowell. He was arrested and charged with having an open container in his car. There were no injuries or fatalities associated with that arrest. He was placed on administrative leave during the investigation, but was eventually found not guilty and returned to work.

Wayne is a long-time, well-liked officer as well as a health and fitness expert known for a cameo in the Micky Ward movie "The Fighter."