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April 23, 2013

Local officers' day in the 'hot zone'

News of the capture of the only surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings crackled over police radios, as officers smiled with a sense of relief and grasped each others hands Friday night.

But while most of those Cape Ann residents viewed the intense manhunt and high-stakes capture from their living room sofas and kitchens 40 of more miles from the scene, a group of local police officers and medics cheered and exchanged high-fives from near the front lines — a command post at Watertown’s Arsenal Mall.

”There was definitely celebrations and high-fives,” said Rockport Medic Jonathan Happel, one of the Cape Ann emergency personnel deployed to the “hot zone” to help law enforcement officials from the highest federal agents on down in their hunt for 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

”This is why we sign up for this,” Happel said. “I decided to be a firefighter because I enjoy helping others. This was kind of the ultimate chance to do that.”

One team of local officers and medics, organized as the Cape Ann Regional Response Team, from Rockport, Manchester, Essex and Ipswich’s police and fire departments, met at the Rockport Police Station, then loaded their equipment into vehicles and headed to Watertown Friday morning. Gloucester K9 officer Chris Genovese and his dog Mako were sent separately to Watertown through the city’s participation in the Northeast Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC.

”Initially when we went down we had no idea — we knew we were going down based on the events that had occurred — but we didn’t know what our role was going to be,” Happel said.

The Cape Ann response group included Rockport police officer Dan Mahoney and Lt. Mark Schmink, Essex Police Sergeant Paul Francis and Detective Ryan Davis, Manchester Sergeant Mark McCoy, officer Howard Lewis, officer Joseph Archambault and Officer Steven Fiore, and Manchester Fire Department medics Jonathan Happel and Bob Cavender.

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