The sidewalk out in front of the library is a major hub for the Upper Valley’s Advance Transit bus service and both riders and drivers noticed a man in his mid-40s nodding off on the sidewalk shortly before 4:30 p.m. Bystanders became sufficiently alarmed by his lethargic appearance and apparent distress that they called for an ambulance.
Lebanon Police officers were the first to arrive, and although they said they didn’t recognize the victim, they did note what appeared to be several signs of a heroin overdose in progress and EMTs who had arrived quickly moved to administer naloxone, an anti-opioid nasal spray.
“He was fortunate that he was not alone because when people are all alone it usually ends up pretty bad,” Lebanon Police Sergeant Adam Leland noted after the man, who identified himself to police as Derrick Hill, 46, from Maine, had been brought back from the brink.
Hill Was Conscious but Responders Were Concerned About His Breathing
It was touch and go for several minutes. At first Hill just appeared unusually sleepy but he couldn’t recall his name and police couldn’t get him to move his arms enough to get a large black backpack off his back to see if he had any identification inside it.
An officer finally cut the straps off the backpack and took it aside to look through it, rapidly finding a large marijuana pipe, several needles and what appeared to be heroin baggies and other drug-related items, but no sign of a medical alert card or any form of ID.
Based on the needles and other apparent heroin paraphernalia, a Lebanon Fire Department ambulance crew that arrived on the scene decided to administer a dose of naloxone and then had Hill lie back on the flowerbed in front of the library while it took hold.
“We’re trying to help you pal. We’re not trying to hurt you buddy,” police and firefighters said over and over to Hill as he lay fitfully on the ground, his breathing slowing so much at one point that firefighters began setting up a medical bag valve mask in case it stopped entirely. “I don’t know what he took so let’s give him a double dose and see what that does,” an EMT suggested to police as large trucks and other mid-day traffic roared past on Main Street on what was otherwise a sunny afternoon with near-perfect summer weather.
“You’re starting to wake up. You’re good! Relax. We’re here to help you. You’re okay buddy you’re being helped. We’re here to help you,” police officers chimed in as they sought to reassure the groggy patient as Hill started to come around and tried to rise up from the bed of mulch. “We’re not trying to hurt you buddy. We’re going to give you a little bit more medicine okay? There you go, get those breaths in buddy. Just chill for a minute. Just lay there and get your bearings, okay?”
After Reviving Hill, Police Focused on the Backpack
After Hill was finally able to sit up and was given a bottle of water, EMTs tried to figure out what he’d taken. Eventually, Hill acknowledged having injected heroin and then reassured the ambulance crew, who were still worried about potential effects from other drugs, that that was all he’d taken.
“You were pretty out,” a paramedic explained. “Not breathing too much for a minute there.”
After insisting that he did not want to be taken to the hospital for evaluation, Hill began gathering up his things and suddenly realized his backpack straps had been severed.
“Who cut the f****** bag?” he asked loudly.
“Hey, Derrick you stopped breathing man,” a police officer replied. “I had to get it off you.”
“You could pull it off my arm, that ain’t hard,” Hill replied.
“No, your arms were locked up,” the officer responded.
“We need to get the drugs out of your bag,” another officer chimed in.
“There’s no drugs in my bag,” Hill insisted, adding, “You already took one bag away you are not taking another one.”
When an officer replied that they already knew there were drugs in the bag Hill angrily countered, “How could you see in there unless you went in?”
Police explained to Hill that they had searched through his backpack when he was incoherent trying to figure out who he was and what was going on.
“You’re not in trouble,” an officer repeated. “I’m on camera,” he said, pointing to his body camera. “You are not getting arrested. All we want is to take the drugs and destroy them.”
“It could kill you,” another officer added. “We can take the whole bag from you but we don’t want to do that. All we want to do is take the drugs and the paraphernalia.”
Hill held firm that there was nothing but needles inside his backpack but police also insisted they weren’t going to let him have it back until they were sure it was clean.
“Can we just look through it real quick and we’ll give everything back that is not illegal. You are not in trouble with us man,” an officer insisted. “This a medical issue. We are just going to take anything you have that’s illegal and throw it out, for real. We don’t want you to die man. You almost died. We want to make sure you don’t die.”
“No, you can’t,” Hill shot back.
“Okay. Then we are taking it. We’ll take the whole bag and seize it for a search warrant,” an officer responded firmly.
“Then go through it now. Hurry up! I want to go,” Hill relented.
After he dumped the contents of the bag onto the sidewalk and police took several items, including a small torch, spoons and what appeared to be a glass pipe, an EMT tried one more time to convince Hill to go with him to the hospital, saying, “Listen it’s up to you man. If you decide to change your mind let us know, alright?”
“It’s embarrassing enough man,” Hill told an officer, who responded, “You don’t have anything to be embarrassed about.”
After Hill had gathered up his backpack and headed down the street, Lebanon Fire Lieutenant John Copeland said that overdose calls have simply become part of the fire department’s routine. “There’s no real uptick lately. It’s kinda just about the same as how it’s been for the last three or four years.”