HOULTON, Maine — Two Houlton policemen were sent to the hospital after accidentally inhaling a small amount of white powder that became airborne while they were investigating alleged drug activity at a local motel. Both men were cleared and returned to work the same day.
A Woodland man has been charged with multiple crimes in connection with the incident.
Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said in a statement emailed Thursday that police are awaiting results of additional laboratory testing, but preliminarily information indicates that the substance was the synthetic compound commonly referred to as bath salts.
The incident took place just after 2 a.m. Dec. 21, after police responded to a call about suspicious activity taking place at the Shiretown Inn and Suites on North Street.
Asselin said Officer Richard York and Sgt. Eric Crouse responded and positioned themselves outside the room where the alleged activity was taking place. The chief said that York was able to look through a window and allegedly observed drug activity taking place inside the room.
The officers gained entry and found five people inside. They also noticed that the smoke detector in the room had been covered with a plastic bag.
After securing a search warrant, police collected evidence that included drugs in the form of pills and powder, a 9mm handgun, ammunition, two propane tanks, a knife, an electronic benefit transfer [EBT] card that didn’t belong to anyone in the room, receipts, drug paraphernalia, a laptop, cellular phones and syringes, according to Asselin.
Detective Kris Calaman and Officer Ezekiel Collins also responded to the scene. Crouse and Calaman were taken by Houlton Ambulance to Houlton Regional Hospital after they opened the lid of a small container that contained white powder. The two men inhaled a “very small” amount and were sent for treatment as a precaution.
“It was a very minute amount, but we just sent them as a precautionary measure,” the chief said Thursday. “They were not at the hospital long.”
Ryan Doody, 36, of Woodland had three outstanding warrants, according to the chief, so he was arrested at the scene. He was summoned for possession of synthetic hallucinogenic drugs, violation of conditions of release, trafficking in prison contraband, sale and use of drug paraphernalia and refusing to sign a uniform summons and complaint.
The case remains in the preliminary stages and police are awaiting lab test results before lodging additional charges against others, according to Asselin.
Agents from the U.S. Border Patrol and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency also assisted at the scene.