LAWRENCE, Mass. — A 36-year-old New Hampshire mother who last week overdosed and collapsed in a Massachusetts discount store with her bewildered toddler daughter in tow is expected to face child endangerment charge, police say.
Lawrence, Massachusetts, Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said the department will file a complaint against the mother in district court. She is then entitled to a hearing before a clerk magistrate who will determine if probable cause exists to formally press charges.
The mother is listed in a police report as Mandy McGowen.
Video footage of the incident shot by an onlooker and provided to the North Andover, Massachusetts Eagle-Tribune shows the toddler dressed in purplish-pink "Frozen" footie pajamas, crying and pulling at McGowan as the woman lies unconscious on the toy aisle floor.
The child grabs her mother's hand, shakes her head, pulls her hair, frantically trying to get her to awaken.
Soon paramedics arrive and administer two doses of Narcan, a drug which reverses the effects of opiate and heroin overdoses.
A police officer looking for identification found drug paraphernalia in the diaper bag being carried by the Salem, New Hampshire, woman, according to a report.
According to the responding police officer's report, when he checked the woman's diaper bag for identification he found "straws cut to three inches long" with "white powdery residue around the tips of them."
After being revived with Narcan, the woman denied she had overdosed and "said she was just tired and dozed off," according to the report.
Paramedics told her they suspected she overdosed. The officer told the woman he found the drug straws in her diaper bag.
"She kept saying, 'No, no,'" store clerk Nicaurys Anziani, said. "She did not want to go to the hospital."
Both mother and daughter were taken to a local hospital by ambulance.
A clerk at the store for less than a year, Anziani said she had never seen something like this happen before in the store, and said she feels "terrible" for the little girl.
It's a dramatic scene for the uninitiated, but for police, firefighters and paramedics, such events have become routine as the region remains in the grip of an opioid and heroin epidemic.
"It's definitely common for children to act in this way, and we have seen this before," said Lawrence Police Capt. Roy Vasque, who leads the department's Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit.
Parents who are caught purchasing or using narcotics in the presence of their children or other children can be charged with child endangerment in 11 states, according to information from the U.S. Children’s Bureau.
In the case of an overdose, when a child is present, police are required by law to immediately alert the state's Department of Children and Families. This is standard protocol for officers when they find a child in danger under any circumstances involving neglect, endangerment or crime.
The police officer on Sunday told the woman that he would be filing paperwork with DCF.
Vasque has said that addicts are commonly warned that their children are in peril.
"We certainly point that out to them," he said. "We'll say, 'Do you understand the danger you are putting your child in?"
Harmacinski writes for the North Andover, Massachusetts Eagle-Tribune.