By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Six Haverhill police officers were among thousands of law enforcement officials who converged on Boston in the aftermath of the marathon bombings and the manhunt for suspects.
Lt. Anthony Haugh, ranking officer in the city’s North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council contingent, commonly known as NEMLEC, said members of his team were dispatched to the scene April 15, just hours after two bombs rocked Boylston Street near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200 others.
“What struck me was how eerie it was to see Boston deserted and so quiet in the middle of the day,” Haugh said, referring to the days after the terrorist attack during which Boston was locked down while police probed the incident and searched for those responsible. “There were no buses or taxis and barely any cars in the street, especially after people were asked to stay inside. There weren’t even any planes in the sky.”
Joining Haugh were Haverhill detectives Stephen Doherty, Andrea Fogarty, William O’Connell, Sean Scharneck and Thomas Howell, and Officer William Mears.
Haugh said the Haverhill officers were mainly assigned to “high-visibility” patrols in and around Boston’s financial district. Some of them were sent to Watertown on Friday to help with the manhunt for one of the two bombing suspects, after his older brother was killed in a shootout with police.
Haugh said the Haverhill officers worked 12-hour shifts from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the days following the bombing, until the second alleged terrorist was captured in Watertown.
Police Chief Alan DeNaro said his Haverhill department has been a member of NEMLEC, an organization of 53 local police departments and sheriffs agencies in Essex and Middlesex counties, for about 12 years. The chief said the regional group has responded to Haverhill in the past to help search for missing people and once to help local and state police search for a murder suspect.
“If we have to close off a large area of the city, that’s were NEMLEC is most valuable,” DeNaro said. “They can send 200 police officers at a moment’s notice if we need them.”
The Haverhill officers joined officers from Methuen, Lawrence, Andover and North Andover in responding to the Boston crisis.
The Lawrence Police Department, for instance, sent its 14-member SWAT team, along with 10 detectives and special operations officers. That department also sent an armored vehicle to assist with the investigation.
Methuen sent 10 officers through NEMLEC. Its officers did door-to-door searches in Watertown. North Andover sent three officers and an explosive-sniffing dog. Andover also sent several officers.