, Salem, MA

March 1, 2013

Alleged drug deal leads to scuffle outside drugstore


---- — SALEM — Lots of people go to Walgreens to buy drugs. But those are the legal kind.

A Beverly man who police suspect was purchasing illegal drugs outside the Boston Street store in Salem yesterday morning was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after he allegedly scuffled with officers and swallowed the contraband.

John Bernard, 60, of 20 Bates Park Ave., Beverly, was spotted by Salem police Detective Sgt. Kristian Hanson on Boston Street just before noon, waiting and talking to someone on a cellphone. Moments later, a green Honda pulled up, and Bernard got inside, Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told a judge.

Two other detectives, Dennis Gaudet and Tom Brennan, had arrived by that point and watched the Honda make a quick trip and then return, a common practice of drug dealers when they meet their customers.

Suspecting that Bernard had just purchased drugs, Gaudet approached and saw Bernard put something into his mouth, according to police. A struggle ensued when officers tried to get him to spit it out, and Bernard and the officers ended up on the ground in the Walgreens parking lot, drawing a crowd. That led to the disorderly conduct charge.

Bernard had swallowed whatever he had put into his mouth, Prosniewski said.

Salem District Court Judge Matthew Machera set bail for Bernard, who has a lengthy prior record, at $500.

Bernard complained, telling the judge that he was caring for his mother, who had suffered a stroke.

Whatever it was Bernard swallowed did not appear to have a severe effect on him during his court appearance two hours later, as he discussed the case with his lawyer and then addressed the judge.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.