EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 1, 2013

Officer faulted in bee sting death

Report: Man found dead from venom after missing person call mishandled

HAVERHILL — The patrolman’s union president faces a six-month unpaid suspension for allegedly mishandling a missing person report in which the person was later found dead — stung to death by honey bees, according to a report by the state medical examiner’s office.

Police said the mother of Alan Schwartz, 57, of Lawrence called the police station at 2:18 a.m. on June 11 to report her son did not come home that night and was not answering his cell phone.

Ina Schwartz said this was very unusual and that she was concerned about her son’s safety. She told a police dispatcher, Officer Rick Welch, that Schwartz was a beekeeper at Silsby Farm on Salem Street. She asked that a police cruiser be sent to the farm to check for her son and his white Tacoma truck at his last know whereabouts — the end of a dirt road near the farm’s entrance that leads to an area where honey bees are kept.

Welch, a nine-year Haverhill police patrolman and president of the patrolman’s union, occasionally works in the dispatch center where he also trains new dispatchers.

Instead of dispatching a cruiser to the farm, however, Welch sent an email-style message to the specific patrolman assigned to cover the Salem Street part of the city that night.

Welch asked the patrolman to be on the lookout “during his travels” for Schwartz’s white Tacoma truck, according to the message. But Welch did not include other information provided by the caller, such as her son’s last known location at the end of the dirt road at the farm.

Welch, who testified at yesterday’s hearing, said he did not assign a patrol car to go to the farm to look for Schwartz because he did not believe the situation was an emergency.

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