By Jon Bishop
AYER — During Halloween festivities on Ayer Main Street, a stranger grabbed the hand of a 9-year-old boy. The boy pulled his hand away, but it’s how Ayer police officers handled the incident that brought the boy’s parents before selectmen.
Ayer resident Marcy Logan said that on Oct. 25 she and her three sons went downtown to the Halloween events. “Shortly after arriving, we decided to wait in line for the hayride,” she said.
It was then, she said, that a man grabbed her nine-year-old son Cole’s hand.
“Cole pulled his hand away, turned and walked away,” she said.
She confronted the man and asked what he was doing. He told her that he wanted to take Cole across the street with him.
She told Ayer police what happened and soon saw three police cruisers in back of Carlins.
One of the officers approached her and said he knows the man’s mother. He is severely challenged and not considered a serious threat, she repeated.
“You do realize he tried to take my son,” she told the officer.
They ended up going trick-or-treating. They saw the man and his mother sitting outside a local store with a bowl of candy.
Cole asked, “Why is that scary man still there?”
When they got home, she told George, her husband, what happened.
“Why was this man allowed to stay downtown?” she said to selectmen. And not only that, but why was he allowed to interact with more children?
She went to the police station and spoke with two officers.
“My main purpose for going down there … was, it made no sense to me that this man was allowed to stay downtown,” she said.
The message that it sent her son was, “You did the right thing, you got away from him, but we let him stay, and we gave him access to more children.”
The police told her that the man has the mind of a 10-year-old, that the incident was no different than a 10-year-old boy asking her son to come across the street.
Police told her, Marcy said, that the man is 40, a Pepperell resident who was involved in a car accident a few years ago, where he suffered brain damage. He was at the trick-or-treating festivities because his mother wanted to see how he did in unsupervised social situations.
After two hours, Marcy decided to leave, thanking the officers for their time, but they followed her into the lobby. One of them said that since her husband was there, why didn’t he do something?
“We’ve been talking for over two hours,” she told him. “My husband wasn’t with me,” something she’s already told the officer, she added.
They suggested that she could have taken her kids and left, which implied that the kids were the problem, she said.
One of the officers told her that he gets it; she’s the mother bear, Marcy said. But he asked her to imagine how the man’s mother must feel.
She said, “Can you imagine how my son must feel?”
The police were supposed to get reports to her on Oct. 27, but that has not yet happened, she said. They have not addressed how this was handled, she said.
Chairman Chris Hillman disclosed that he is friends with the Logans and had suggested they come to the Board of Selectmen meeting.
“We apologize to you,” he said later in the meeting.
Marcy said that she didn’t want to make a complaint against the police, because of the pride she holds for Ayer.
“I thought, if nothing else, they would come back when they said they would, which was the 27th,” she said.
She said that she submitted the incident to the district attorney, who could only make a decision on whether the man should have been charged. She found out that a man can walk up to a child or to a woman and take them by the hand and say “come with me.”
“If he’s not successful, it’s not a crime,” she said.
Hillman asked how the police knew he wouldn’t have done anything.
She said, “I got the feeling they know his mother pretty well,” adding that “for some reason, I feel their sympathy leaned more towards her and her son, and not with me, but most importantly Cole, and even bigger than that: the kids in this town.”
Selectman Gary Luca asked Police Chief William Murray, who was in the audience, if the matter was being investigated. Why haven’t the Logans received a response? he said.
Murray said that he is investigating the matter and does not yet have an answer as to why the Logans have not received a response.
“If what (Marcy) said is true, this really shouldn’t be trivialized,” Luca said.
George said he spoke with Murray on Tuesday and said the man “shouldn’t be allowed back there.”
“I don’t want this guy showing up and reading about him a year from now,” he said.
Vice Chairman Jannice Livingston said the “mother bear” comment was inappropriate, noting that it fits the description of most mothers. “I think there’s a time and place to use that comment, and I think it was inappropriately (used),” she said.
Marcy said the police could have handled the matter differently.
George said they could have had him removed and taken him to a hospital to be evaluated, or they could have said to his mother that it might be a good idea to take him home.
“After tonight, I’m hoping to move on and to feel like I did the right thing,” Marcy said.
Chief Murray said that he has been in contact with the Pepperell Police Chief.
“I’m keeping him apprised of the investigation,” he said. “My plan is to have this done by Monday.”
He’ll set up an appointment to talk to the Logans next week.
Hillman said that he has “faith in the chief that he’s going to investigate this thoroughly. This is something that shouldn’t happen,” Hillman said.
The Public Spirit spoke with Chief Murray on Thursday and asked him to elaborate on the investigation. He said that he’s looking into how his officers handled it, and to find out who the man is. He didn’t offer further comment.
Chief David Scott of Pepperell said via e-mail that he was advised of the incident, but “we really don’t have any involvement in this case.”