Massachusetts Cop Forum banner
Not open for further replies.
1 - 2 of 2 Posts

50 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Man arrested in Agawam after attempt to steal drugs

By Jack Dew
Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD -- The Hillcrest Campus of Berkshire Medical Center was evacuated yesterday after a man armed with a handgun walked into a clinic and demanded narcotics.

Police said that Robert Fitzgerald, 21, walked into the New England Pain Center at Hillcrest at approximately 12:30 p.m. and demanded that an employee give him OxyContin, a powerful prescription painkiller used to treat severe pain such as that suffered by cancer patients. Fitzgerald allegedly showed that he had a handgun tucked into his waistband.

The employee, whose name was not released yesterday, refused to give Fitzgerald the pills, authorities said, and Fitzgerald left.

Arraignment today

Within eight hours, police arrested Fitzgerald at an address in Agawam. He was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and carrying a firearm without a license. Held overnight on $1,000 bail, he is expected to be arraigned this morning in Central Berkshire District Court.

The arrest followed a day of concern at Hillcrest and around the West Side, as police scrambled to find the suspect. The Pittsfield School Department locked down four nearby schools: Taconic High School and the Crosby, Capeless and Conte elementary schools so that children wouldn't be heading home while an armed man was on the loose.

Following the attempted robbery, Hillcrest went into emergency mode, and the administration broadcast a message through the phone system that all employees should stay in their offices.

While several staff members watched out of windows, the Pittsfield Police Department arrived and set up a perimeter around the building, with officers fanning out to search the woods that ring the former hospital.

Special Response team

No one had seen the man identified as Fitzgerald leave the building. When police failed to find him on the grounds or in the surrounding area, they locked down the hospital and summoned the county's Special Response Unit, a heavily armed, highly trained corps similar to a SWAT team.

While the police prepared to search the building, all nonessential employees were slowly evacuated, escorted out by officers.

"It's scary," said an employee, who identified herself only as Joanne. "We couldn't get any information. All we could do was look out the window, and when you see the SWAT team pulling up, it's scary because it means this is pretty big."

Law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation said they believe Fitzgerald had been a patient at Hillcrest, likely at the pain clinic. Michael Leary, a spokesman for Hillcrest and its parent company, Berkshire Health Systems, said he could not discuss whether Fitzgerald was affiliated in any way with the facility.

With the building empty, police did a room-by-room search, accompanied by members of the Hillcrest and BMC security teams and the Pittsfield Fire Department. They declared the facility clear at about 3:30 p.m.

Arrest warrant executed

Police said they believed Fitzgerald, who is from Feeding Hills, a suburb of Springfield, fled the campus in a red 1997 Honda Civic. They had information that he was heading toward an address in Agawam, and by late evening had obtained a warrant for his arrest, which was executed by members of the Agawam Police Department at approximately 8 p.m.

OxyContin has been at the center of several local crimes over the past few years. In 2002, after a rash of violent robberies at pharmacies throughout the commonwealth, Massachusetts became the first state to establish a tip line and a reward fund to target OxyContin-related crimes.

A high-powered pain killer made by Purdue Pharma, OxyContin is designed to be time-released, slowly dissolving in a patient's system and delivering an effective, but not intoxicating, dose of the drug. Recreational users defeat the time-release mechanism by crushing or dissolving the drug before ingesting it.

Berkshire Medical Center merged with Hillcrest Hospital in 1996, and has since closed Hillcrest's emergency room and been slowly moving many of its other operations to BMC's North Street campus. Hillcrest is now the home of the pain clinic, a family health center, the McGee substance abuse treatment facility, a sleep center and several administrative offices. The only inpatient unit is McGee.

While Hillcrest was shut down, the staff contacted patients with appointments scheduled for yesterday afternoon, advising them not to come. Those in the McGee Unit were kept in their locked wards and were not evacuated.

"The hospital took all appropriate security procedures," said Leary, the spokesman for BMC and Hillcrest. "We have a very detailed emergency operations plan, which did go into effect immediately after this incident was reported. All of the steps in that plan were followed, including the safe evacuation of the building of nonessential personnel, the lockdown of the McGee Unit, which is a locked unit to begin with The security here on-campus worked hand-in-hand with the Police Department to make sure that individuals who left the building were walked out by police. There was no [armed man] in the building in the end, but we took all precautions in the event that there was."

He said the facility is expected to reopen for business as usual this morning.
1 - 2 of 2 Posts
Not open for further replies.