By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — As thousands of law enforcement personnel worked around the clock to identify and capture those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings last week, an Amesbury police officer was right in the thick of things helping keep everyone on the same page.
Sgt. William Scholtz spent most of last week at Boston Police headquarters assisting in the manhunt. As the planning sections chief for the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council’s Incident Management Team, he was primarily responsible for managing communication among NEMLEC resources.
“My job was to track all of our resources, personnel, equipment, stuff like that, and also to plan for our next operational period throughout the incident,” Scholtz said.
NEMLEC is a coalition of 53 different municipal police and sheriff’s agencies around northeast Massachusetts that share equipment, knowledge and personnel to maximize overall effectiveness. NEMLEC officers from around the state were called in to Boston at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, less than two hours after the explosions, and most of the officers spent nearly the whole week there.
After being called in, Scholtz reported to the Boston Police Cooperation Center at Boston Police headquarters, where he stayed until Friday, when he was assigned to the NEMLEC command post at the Watertown Mall during the manhunt’s final hours.
“I was there Monday night until midnight, all day Tuesday, Thursday night and Friday at the completion,” Scholtz said. “The only day that I missed was Wednesday.”
While Scholtz’s role was largely behind the scenes, he was very much involved with the hour-to-hour efforts to capture 19-year-old Cambridge resident Dzokhar Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan. For instance, when the two suspects engaged police in a shootout in Watertown early Friday morning, Scholtz was the one who deployed the NEMLEC officers to the scene.
“My job that night was in the tactical operations center with the Boston PD and my direct duties were the deployment of NEMLEC resources,” Scholtz said. “So I was the contact person between Boston police and our units; everything going out for our units was at my direction.”
Scholtz said being a part of such an immense law enforcement effort was intense but that he was impressed by how smoothly everything went considering the number of agencies and officers involved.
“It’s always interesting to see how people are going to operate together, and there were some minor issues we had to address, but in the end it was everyone working together for the same outcome,” Scholtz said.
And that outcome, Scholtz said, was a quick and successful resolution to a situation that amounted to finding a needle in a haystack.
“I’ll be honest with you, you’re looking at a situation like this and you have two unknowns that did what they did, and in less than a week they’re able to locate them and take them into custody,” Scholtz said. “That’s just amazing that that could happen. Between the technology, people calling in, I’m sure there’s other information that helped move this along in the direction that it went, but it’s just amazing to me that we were able to bring this to a conclusion in just five days.”
Good thing too, considering most of the officers hadn’t slept in days by that point, and even days later Scholtz said he still hasn’t recovered.
“My eyes were burning until yesterday afternoon,” he said. “And there were people out there for many more hours than I was too.”