Pictured are Patrolman Fabrizio Vesti on left and Sgt. Armando Herrera. Both officers assisted in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing as team members of the North Eastern Law Enforcement Council, a regional police consortium.
By Anne O'Connor
PEPPERELL -- On Monday, April 15, Boston called. Patrolman Fabrizio Vestri left his National Guard training at Devens. Sgt. Armando Herrera was on duty at the station. After clearing it with the chief, he jumped in a cruiser and left for Boston.
Vestri, 40, drives a command post, a 42-foot-long bus with radios and a conference room, most everything needed to run an operation. Normally, the member of the Incident Management Team would also take a cruiser to meet the command post, but since he was training out of town, he took his own vehicle.
Herrara, 50, is a negotiator for the Special Weapons and Tactics team and the Regional Repsonse Team. Both officers are part of the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, a regional police consortium.
Less than two hours after the Boston Marathon was bombed, NEMLEC members sped to the city to assist. The two Pepperell men left the area around 4:30 p.m. and returned home that night about 11. The officers' job that evening was to support the law enforcement teams that were in place before the marathon began.
Days later, early in the morning on Friday, April 19, Herrera's pager sounded. Just hours after getting off a 3 to 11 shift, he was on the road. A full response was needed for Watertown; an officer was shot.
"When we got there, it was chaos," Herrera said. The community was in lockdown. People were told to stay inside and lock doors and windows.
The Pepperell officer went door to door securing the houses. About half of the homes were searched at the residents' requests. Building that had open doors or basements were automatically searched. The residents were very cooperative and very appreciative, he said.
The team returned to the staging area and was getting ready to return home "when the call came. Shots fired," Herrera said.
An hour and a half later, the subject was in custody. Herrera was about 50 feet from the boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding.
The experience was draining for the veteran officer. "You feel it afterwards; you just collapse," he said.
"Hopefully this will never happen again," he said.
Pepperell's NEMLEC team members have been called out for other incidents. Missing-people searches are common. The team is also used for covering major celebrations like championship series held in Boston.
NEMLEC has come to Pepperell's aid in the past. The two officers said teams arrived to help in a shooting with a barricaded suspect, a bank robber from Vermont and a death threat after a restraining order was issued.
Vestri trains with his NEMLEC team once a month. Because Herrera has two positions with NEMLEC, he trains twice a month. Member communities are required to have 10 percent of the force partipate.
Team members receive a stipend for their on-call time and are paid, usually by the host city, for active duty time, the officers said. The coverage area extends west as far as Townsend and east to the Gloucester area.