Athol Spirits employee flags down police officer after man in “nod” state points to “middle of nowhere,” walks into side of store

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ATHOL — On Saturday, Sept. 16, at about 5 p.m., Officer Paul Forand of the Athol Police Department was driving on Tunnel Street when an employee of Athol Spirits waved him over.

(The account and quotations in this article were taken from the printed Personnel Narrative of Officer Forand.)

The employee, Brian Emery, told Officer Forand that he had to deny entry to a patron because the individual was “messed up” and “definitely on something.”

“Brian stated he was stumbling, mumbling, and had his eyes closed,” Officer Forand said. “Brian stated the male pointed to the middle of nowhere and then walked into the building.”

Emery described the man as having long hair and wearing a dark sweatshirt. He was last seen on foot heading toward the parking lot of Ocean State Job Lot in Lord Pond Plaza.

Officer Forand then checked the area behind the old Casket Factory at the end of Lord Pond Plaza where he found a man matching the description.

“The male, later identified as Mr. Anthony Labonte, was wearing a gray sweatshirt, had long hair, and appeared to be in a ‘nod’ state,” Officer Forand said. “Anthony was standing upright with a slight bend in his knees and had his eyes closed, often referred to as ‘on the nod.’ The ‘nod’ is normally a state someone enters into having used a large dosage of an opiate drug because opiates slow the body’s functions down, making people appear to be sleepy.”

Labonte, 25, is a resident of 104 Ridgewood Lane in Gardner.

Anthony Labonte, of Gardner Massachusetts', mugshot. Courtesy of Athol Police Department.
Anthony Labonte’s mugshot

When Officer Forand approached Labonte, he opened his eyes, revealing pinpoint pupils.

“Officer Forand positioned himself so that Anthony would be facing away from the sun and after that, his eyes did not dilate at all, indicating a high dosage of opiate or narcotics in his system. Anthony also had slurred speech,” Officer Forand said. “I have had previous interactions with Anthony and his speech was not slurred. Anthony is also known to Officer Forand and the Athol Police Department to be a heroin/fentanyl user. I have interacted with Anthony in the same area in the past where he had empty stamped wax bags in his possession consistent with those used to transport or contain heroin.”

According to Officer Forand, at this time, Labonte called his father because he was supposed to be picking him up from work. While speaking with his father, Officer Forand saw a cut blue straw in Labonte’s right sweatshirt pocket.

“Cut straws are commonly used in the snorting or inhalation of drugs such as cocaine or heroin,” explained Officer Forand. “Users will often cut the straw down in length so when they snort the drug or inhale the smoke, they are not moving the product through a normal size straw (makes it easier). Based on the independent witness statements, my observations of Anthony’s person (eyes, nod, slurred speech), the previous interactions with Anthony in the same area for drug use, and the observation of the cut blue straw in his sweatshirt pocket, I informed Anthony that he was going to be searched. At this point, Officer Cody Vitols and Sergeant Randal Stange were on the scene.”

On Labonte’s person officers located:

  • A cut blue straw in Labonte’s right sweatshirt
  • A small ball of charred tin foil. (According to Officer Forand, “charred tin foil is a commonly used means of cooking drugs so the user can inhale the smoke.”)
  • 18 “American Gangster” stamped wax bags in the right coin pocket of Anthony’s shorts. (The bags contained a brown powdery substance consistent with heroin or fentanyl. The wax bags were folded into two different bundles. One of the bundles had a rubber band around it. Wax bags folded together (normally 10 of them) and wrapped with a rubber band are commonly referred to as a “bun” and are sold this way on the street. Since Officer Forand counted 18 bags, that means Labonte had 2 “buns” of heroin/fentanyl on him and had used two of the bags).

At the conclusion of the search, Officer Forand read Labonte his Miranda Rights from a card he carries in his uniform pocket. The officer then asked Labonte what was in the wax bags and he stated it was heroin laced with fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is commonly added to heroin as a way to ‘cut’ the drug and add a stronger high for the user,” Officer Forand said. Adding, “Throughout the interaction, Anthony stated he was in drug court already and stated he needed to get into rehab for his drug use.”

Labonte was transported to the Athol Police Department for booking.

His bail was set at $290.

The substance in the wax bags was sent to the crime lab for testing.

Labonte was charged with Possession of a Class A Substance (Heroin/Fentanyl).

Labonte was arraigned in Orange District Court on Sept. 18, after which he was released on bail without prejudice.

Labonte appeared in court on Nov. 3 for a pretrial hearing.

Disclaimer: If you are wondering why the incident in this story was from September, that’s because I had to file FOIA request(s) to get the court documents for the incident. FOIAs are time consuming.

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