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Arlington teen apparently consumes cyanide, spurs hazmat response

Arlington police Captain Richard Flynn (left) and Chief Frederick Ryan discussed a death possibly linked to cyanide use.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

ARLINGTON — Hazmat crews rushed to a quiet street on Friday afternoon after a 15-year-old died by apparently consuming cyanide, officials said.

Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan said near the scene on Rockmont Road that police were called to the home at about 4 p.m., after a relative voiced “concerns” about the male victim, who lived in the home.

Ryan did not elaborate on the concerns but said that officers found the victim’s body in the basement of the home, and that observations led them “to believe that the deceased may have consumed cyanide.”

As a result, Ryan said, neighbors were evacuated from their homes and a hazardous-materials crew descended on the residence to begin decontaminating the area, as well as the victim’s body.


The office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said in a statement that because that because the victim’s death does not appear to be suspicious, authorities will not release his name.

An official with knowledge of the investigation who requested anonymity because of not being authorized to speak on the case told the Globe that the victim was 15.

Around 6:45 p.m., Chief Ryan said the scene around the home was stable, and that the decontaminating process was continuing.

Once the cleanup is completed, he said, investigators and the state medical examiner’s office would have access to the home to begin their work. Most neighbors were able to return home by 8:30 p.m.

According to the chief, authorities were investigating whether the youth had purchased the cyanide on the Internet. No toxic material had become airborne during its handling, Ryan said.

Officials also said later in the evening that there was no danger to the public.

Frederick Ryan said the medical examiner’s office would determine a cause of death, and that it was unclear whether police had been called to the home previously.


Stunned neighbors stood on an adjacent street Friday evening as police and the hazmat team processed the scene.

“It’s very sad,” said Modesto Hevia, 60, a neighbor who, like others, said he did not know the victim’s family.

Another neighbor, Gina Murphy, 57, also expressed sympathy for the teenager.

Around 7 p.m., an Arlington fire vehicle and two ambulances pulled onto the street and joined other emergency workers at the scene.

An Arlington police officer barred nonresidents from going onto the road.

“A loss of life in our community is a tragedy, but with the possible addition of hazardous materials, we need to be extra careful to also protect the first responders and civilians in the area,” Chief Ryan said in a statement. “I wish to thank residents for their patience this afternoon, and my most sincere condolences go out to the family of the deceased.”

Paul Schlichtman, chairman of the Arlington School Committee, said in a phone interview that he did not know whether the teen was enrolled in the public school district. He said the teenager’s death is concerning to the entire community.

“This is going to have an impact on the community no matter who you are,” he said.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Lauren Fox can be reached at lauren.fox@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurenbfox.

Correction: Because of a photographer’s error, Arlington police Captain Richard Flynn was misidentified in the photo caption that accompanied an earlier version of this story.