On the inside: Managing Editor on site of drug bust

Editor’s Note: I was on a ride along with Norwich Police Officer Ryan Legacy when the drug bust in today’s edition occurred. What follows is my first person account of the evening leading up to, including, and after the seizure of the narcotics.

NORWICH – The night shift for the Norwich Police Department begins at 7 p.m. I arrived a few minutes late to meet Officer Legacy, who is employed both with the NPD and the Sherburne Police.

Friday night’s Sergeant was Justin Carpenter, and Officer Paul Slack was also on duty.

I was equipped with a bulletproof vest underneath my coat for safety purposes. Shortly after my arrival, Legacy and I began road patrol in his vehicle.

The first stop made was for a vehicle with a loud muffler, and it turned out that the operator of the vehicle did not have a valid license, therefore the operator was ticketed, and his licensed passenger was permitted to take over operating the vehicle. He will appear in court at a later date.

From that point for the next couple of hours it was pretty quiet for a Friday night. During down time I learned that Legacy enjoys hockey and is rather skilled in identifying those driving while intoxicated. We stopped at the Norwich Fire Department to check in, see how they were and say hello. We also conducted property checks, to make sure doors were locked and businesses were secure.

His vehicle was meticulously clean, and he said he makes it a point to ensure that it it up to par.

I additionally learned that Officer Legacy enjoys spending his free time with his niece and nephew when he isn’t working, two kiddos he clearly adores.

It was shortly after 10 p.m. when Sgt. Carpenter dispatched Legacy and I to a trespass call at 88 East Main St. in Norwich. The caller stated there may have been someone in her garage who did not have permission to be there.

I assumed – for some reason – that it would have been a teen stealing a bike or something of the sort.

Upon arrival, Legacy approached a woman, who I would guess to be in her 30s, who said she witnessed a man walk into the garage in the rear of the property. The officer told the woman we would check it out for her. This woman was not the caller of the complaint, as the caller was an older woman. The woman we first encountered was a tenant, the caller was the owner of the property.

We walked down the driveway, to the door of the garage that was narrow. It was dark once we made it inside, and a narrow pathway. Legacy noticed a staircase in the left rear area of the garage, and began to quietly make his way up the stairs. Movement from above was heard.

Legacy drew his weapon when he was in the middle of the staircase and I was a few steps behind him. He made it to the top of the stairs before me, and I heard him yell, “Police, show me your hands!”

I made it up the dark staircase and by this time I noticed a makeshift room made out of bedsheets, a couch and a bed.

Additionally, I noticed six individuals scrambling to sit as Officer Legacy had ordered them to do so.

There was yelling, sitting, and hands placed in the air. Confusion ensued.

Out of the darkness I saw another individual flail and run. By run … I mean he ran fast. He pushed through Officer Legacy and into me. I remained by the stairs and Legacy was in the middle of the room attempting to control the situation.

The man who opted to run – who I didn’t even initially see – proceeded to run into me on his attempt to flee, knocking me down and into a dresser drawer that was loose on the ground. My glasses fell off, but I caught them quickly.

Shaken up, I remained on the ground for the next 30 minutes or so.

After the subject ran, Legacy called the station advising that he needed additional units to his location in the upstairs of the garage, and said that one subject fled on foot and he was ‘out’ with several other subjects.

Officer Legacy said that he saw sandwich baggies get thrown.

Legacy patted down each of the remaining six subjects for weapons for safety purposes. Some were quiet, others were rather talkative.

I recognized four of the six individuals, mainly through my work with the newspaper. John Strong, Nathaniel Jenkins, Cheyenne Davenport and Lori Brooks were those who were familiar.

Shortly thereafter, Officer Slack arrived and immediately called Strong over to him. They spoke quietly behind me as I remained where I had fallen. I could hear that Strong said there was no meth in the garage.

All of the subjects were told to remain still with their hands visible. Legacy repeatedly asked what was in the sandwich baggies that were thrown prior to the 7th subject’s flight.

Legacy was able to recover the baggies on the floor while looking around with his flashlight. He located two clear bags, each with smaller baggies. He notified the subjects that the situation became much more serious. Some of the subjects responded to that with negative comments, others remained quiet.

Legacy did not go get the baggies until Officer Slack was available. He then recovered the bags and believed that they may have been narcotics. He gave them to Officer Slack.

Officer Slack led Strong outside of the garage shortly thereafter.

CCSO Deputy Chad O’Hara arrived with his K9 and two other deputies. O’Hara said his K9 traced the runner behind a local business and to Mitchell Street, where the scent was lost.

None of the individuals on the couch took responsibility for what was found in the bags. One subject said, “So does this mean we all get charged?”

At this point, the subjects were placed into investigative custody and CCSO deputies began taking the individuals one by one outside. Another pat down for safety and was conducted prior to each leaving the garage. [Sidenote: When it was time to start with the subjects, one deputy pointed at me on the ground and said, “I’ll start with her.” That was when I spoke for the first time since our arrival, to let him know I was with Officer Legacy.]

Once all of the individuals left, I stood up and Legacy and I said we could only look around for what was in plain view until Sgt. Carpenter arrived and began photographing and processing the scene.

From my vantage point on the ground, I was able to see a crack pipe and a hypodermic needle. Upon standing up and turning on my cellphone’s flashlight, I was able to see much, much more.

The “room” made by the sheets had both a seating area and a table. On the table was a hypodermic needle, bloody napkin, a spoon with a brownish liquid, baking soda, items that could commonly be used as tourniquets, and Suboxone strips.

While continuing to look around as to what was in plain sight, we noticed many more hypodermic needles, a small baggie of white oval pills, and a needle on the couch in the sheeted area that was filled with a brownish liquid. Directly next to that hypodermic needle was a black velcro brace, that I assumed was being used as a tourniquet to assist in the process of shooting up narcotics.

To the right of the sheeted area was the bed, upon which I noticed a gun (later determined to be a BB gun), and another gun in what appeared to be a shelf above the bed.

Sgt. Carpenter then arrived, and he had his camera to take evidence photos, and tests to determine the type of narcotics recovered.

Based on Carpenter’s testing, the two bags Legacy recovered after they had been thrown were heroin and crack.

It was then that the police were able to move items and search for anything else that may have been on the premises and illegal.

Carpenter was busy collecting evidentiary photos and Legacy was looking around.

Legacy climbed on the bed to the other side and found a suitcase. As he moved the zipper to open the case, I immediately smelled marijuana. It was full. Soon after, Legacy located what appeared to be a pillowcase, also filled with marijuana.

I saw many other small empty baggies with a white powdery traces in them.

We also found pornography.

Sgt. Carpenter and Officer Legacy secured all of the evidence in appropriate evidence bags and all three of us were wearing gloves for safety purposes.

I majored in Substance Abuse Counseling in college, so seeing the narcotics didn’t shock me. Seeing the hypodermic needles didn’t shock me.

I will admit, I was pretty shaken up, but mainly because I was still experiencing the adrenaline rush of having been knocked over while the one subject fled.

The bloody napkin and tourniquets were unsettling, as I could only imagine what was happening prior to our arrival.

This was intensified by the close proximity of the bed.

Some thoughts that rushed through my head quickly included, but were not limited to: How often do females (and males) trade sex for drugs? Were there so many needles because they were each going to use their own and try to be safe, or were some folks sharing? With regard to the needle filled with liquid, did we interrupt someone trying to get their fix? And could that have potentially been the fix that caused them to overdose?

So many other thoughts crossed my mind in that garage, but they were cut short when Deputy O’Hara returned to say he was ready to bring his K9 through the upstairs in an attempt to locate any narcotics that may have been missed.

Legacy and I waited outside. The six individuals remained detained near CCSO vehicles.

O’Hara’s K9 did not find anything else on his search. The K9 was not able to find anything other than what was already recovered but was very interested in the scent of the entire area upstairs.

It was then that the individuals were transported back to the Norwich Police Department. The two females I didn’t recognize were transported in one CCSO vehicle, Jenkins was transported by O’Hara, Davenport taken by another CCSO vehicle, Slack had already transported Strong, and Legacy and I transported Brooks.

It was after arrival at the station when the Narcotics Detective Michael Purdy arrived and began conducting interviews. All six were processed and interviewed.

I sat and observed as Legacy began typing reports, Carpenter continued his duties, and Officer Alicia Woodard arrived to keep an eye on the female subjects.

Detective Purdy received some information that led him to believe there may have been two vehicles in need of a search. O’Hara was called back with his K9, and one of the vehicles got a hit. The car was then seized and searched the following day.

Chief Rodney Marsh came in as well, to make sure everything was under control and running smoothly. He additionally helped with paperwork.

The officers checked my laceration and provided me with ointment and a bandaid, and ensured I was okay after all the action that had taken place.

My ‘duties’ ended at 3 a.m., and I left the station still wide awake, knowing the officers had hours of paperwork to do prior to taking the arrested individuals to their arraignments, which happened individually.

I have many take-aways from this experience.

First, it is well known that narcotic abuse is widespread in the city. It is crucial that the department is equipped with a well-trained Narcotics Detective – or maybe even more than one. I understand that where there is drug demand there will be the supply, and Norwich has a high demand, but if a sick addict can get off the street and remain alive one more night, it’s a good night.

Second, any call that sounds routine can turn out to be anything. Friday night, Batman and Robin thought they were walking into a typical trespass call, and it wound up being a large narcotics recovery. Nothing is what it seems. And yes, even though I got knocked down and remained still on the dark, grimy floor, I referred to myself as Robin.

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