Police, Fire, Courts

June 18, 2013

Drug charges follow hazmat incident

CHAMPLAIN — A man faces misdemeanor drug charges as a result of a hazardous-materials incident at the Champlain Port of Entry on Saturday morning that sent six officers to the hospital.

Clifton Allen, 43, of Lebanon, N.H., was charged Sunday with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and unlawful possession of marijuana, State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Capt. Robert LaFountain said Monday. 

Allen was attempting to enter the United States at the Champlain crossing at about 6:30 a.m., when he was pulled over for a secondary inspection. Customs and Border Protection officers experienced symptoms of illness after they searched his car.

LaFountain referred questions about the cause of the officers’ symptoms to Customs and Border Protection; he didn’t speculate on whether the methamphetamine was responsible.

Officials on Saturday thought six officers had been affected, but on Monday, Clinton County Emergency Services Assistant Director Kelly Donoghue said only the two who initially conducted the inspection fell ill. 

Those officers and four others who provided assistance were all decontaminated at the border crossing and taken to CVPH Medical Center, where they were released later Saturday. 

Donoghue said he wasn’t sure what caused the reaction.

The exposure prompted a response from Champlain Volunteer Fire Department and various hazardous materials teams, who set up operations in a large parking lot south of the border crossing and were there for at least eight hours.

Later that day, Allen was arraigned in Champlain Town Court in front of Town Justice John Favreau and sent to Clinton County Jail in lieu of $1,000 cash bail or $2,000 bond. He is to reappear in Champlain Town Court on June 27.

There was no concern that the incident was a terrorist attack, and there was never any danger to the public, Donoghue said.

The flow of traffic crossing the border was not interrupted, he said.

LaFountain said the incident remained under investigation Monday.

Customs and Border Protection Public Affairs didn’t return a call Monday afternoon.

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