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The Springfield Fire Commissioner Should Resign

Springfield Fire Commissioner Cleared of All Wrong Doing in Death of Raccoon
The Springfield Fire Commissioner Should Resign

After an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Police, the Springfield fire commissioner,  Bernard J. “BJ” Calvi, will not face any criminal charges in the slaying of a supposedly rabid raccoon, and I believe it is extremely suspicious to say the least.

A Brief Recap of the Incident

You may have heard the controversial death of the Springfield raccoon a few weeks back or may have read my past story on the matter, but for those who may have not heard here is a summary.

Over a two-day period, a sickly raccoon was spotted and reported by several residents of downtown Springfield. Multiple close-up videos were taken displaying the creature limping, but not showing any signs of aggression. Call records show residents believed the raccoon to be either sickly or blind, but two callers mentioned it being possibly rabid. 

On February 21st, 2024, the raccoon was spotted outside of the Springfield Fire Department’s headquarters on Worthington St. 

A trapper was called, however supposedly after a time of arrival could “not be estimated,” BJ Calvi took it upon himself to intentionally run over the raccoon outside of the department multiple times with a city vehicle, deeming the raccoon a “public safety threat.”

The incident was captured on camera, and the nature of the raccoon’s death caused a massive uproar in the community and surrounding areas. National attention was also captured which elicited a response from PETA. 

The raccoon’s corpse was handled by the Department of Public Works (DPW), and later recovered in Forest Park early March. Supposedly the DPW worker who collected the remains was instructed by a supervisor to place it in Forest Park. 

These actions directly violated state policy on dealing with possibly rabid animals, which stated the brain of the mammal would need to both be preserved and sent for testing in Boston. Testing is the only way to officially determine if a mammal is rabid. In this case, the raccoon was too far decomposed to receive that testing. 

Braman Pest Control, which is contracted with the city of Springfield to remove rabid animals, reportedly had no reports of the incident, and the Massachusetts Environmental Police began an investigation into the matter. 

More details are covered in my previous story: Fur and Fury: The Slaughter of Raccoon by Fire Commissioner

Conclusion of The Investigation

Late Thursday afternoon; the Massachusetts Environmental Police announced that they have cleared BJ Calvi of any criminal wrongdoing.

In a statement, the Massachusetts Environmental Police stated:

 “While the actions by which the raccoon was killed were troubling, after a thorough investigation, the Massachusetts Environmental Police has determined that criminal charges are not warranted. The Massachusetts Environmental Police, MassWildlife, and the Division of Animal Health will continue to do outreach to cities and towns to communicate the proper protocols related to wildlife disease, wildlife rehabilitation, and animal cruelty.”

A statement for the city was given on behalf of Springfield City Solicitor Judge John Payne, who told Western Mass News: 

“We are very pleased that after a comprehensive investigation, the Environmental Police have concluded that Chief Calvi acted legally given the circumstances he had before him at the time in question.”

The Story is Not Adding Up

When considering all of the publicly released facts of the case, I wholeheartedly believe that the death of this raccoon was a cover-up. There are several issues and questions I have as to the actions taken and the rationality behind them.

One of my many questions includes why was an outside trapper contacted to remove the raccoon when the city has a contract with Braman Pest Control to deal with the removal of rabid wildlife? If the estimated time of arrival could not be pinpointed, then why was Brahman Pest Control never notified? Especially seeing as Brahman is just across the river in Agawam and a mere 15 minutes away. 

Another major issue I have is the handling of the raccoon’s corpse, which is disgusting and suspicious to say the least.

It is state policy that the brain matter of any mammal suspected to be rabid is preserved and sent out for testing at the state’s laboratory in Jamaica Plain, Boston. However, this is not what happened; instead a DPW worker collected the remains for them to be placed in Forest Park by the demands of a supervisor, and the remains were not recovered for about two weeks.

Springfield Solicitor Judge John Payne stated that the recovered body was brought to Thomas J O’Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center and photographed by the Massachusetts State Environmental Police. Payne would not reveal the identity of the supervisor. 

These details are concerning. Why were the remains not brought to Brahman Pest Control or Thomas J O’Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center to begin with? I highly doubt that a city as old and populated as Springfield is only now for the first time dealing with a possibly rabid animal. 

There is no excuse as to why the remains were not sent for testing, unless somebody wanted to cover up the incident and the fact that the raccoon may have not been rabid to begin with.

There has been no official confirmation that the raccoon ever foamed at the mouth, only testimony by the commissioner himself. In addition, Hampden County Register of Deeds, Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, says she has been told by several officers and firefighters that the raccoon was actually blind, not rabid. 

She stated that she believed “there was no public safety risk, and you can see it in the video. There were officers there that refused to shoot it, so then you say, why?” and “If you can prove that it was rabid, then bring it. But if you lied, then you don’t want it found”.

My Final Take on The Incident

When I take all of the facts and logistics of this case into consideration I do not see how this incident is anything but a cover-up. 

The failure to contact Brahman despite proximity and contract, no official report of foaming at the mouth, the DPW supervisor instructing the remains to be placed in Forest Park and not be sent for testing, testimony from Coakley Rivera stating she has multiple accounts from Calvi’s colleagues that the animal was blind and not rabid, and finally video and 911 call recorded accounts of the raccoon showing signs of a limp, sickness, blindness and “not bothering anyone,”should be more than enough to set alarm bells that something is deeply corrupt here.

Regardless of whether or not you believe this incident was covered up or not; it is clear that this situation was handled extremely inadequately and the death suffered by the raccoon was cruel.

In my personal opinion, I believe Commissioner BJ Calvi should be ashamed and charged for his actions, and step down from his role as commissioner.

Link to Previous Story

Fur and Fury: The Slaughter of Raccoon by Fire Commissioner

Citations

https://www.wwlp.com/news/local-news/hampden-county/body-of-raccoon-killed-by-springfield-fire-commissioner-recovered/

https://www.westernmassnews.com/2024/04/04/springfield-fire-commissioner-cleared-any-criminal-charges-related-raccoon-death/

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About the Contributor
Jacob Moquin
Jacob Moquin, Opinion Editor
Jacob Moquin is a part of the Class of 2024 at Ludlow High School. This is his first year as a writer for the Cub. He is also a part of Leading Lions and LHS cares, and was the former Vice President of the French Club. Outside of school and sleeping he enjoys partaking in painting and looking through his telescope on a clear night. After graduating, Jacob plans on pursuing a doctorate in veterinary medicine and aspires to have a practice of his own. However for the time being he plans on sharing his many opinions for readers to enjoy.

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  • K

    KarenApr 11, 2024 at 9:02 pm

    I absolutely agree 100% I also think it’s wrong the the Environmental Police found nothing wrong in this situation, and they are supposed to be the ones to get justice for unnecessary suffering and abuse to an animal, boy Massachusetts wildlife has not chance at justice with those fools 🤦‍♀️ at the very least he should step down or be fired for covering up what he knew to be the truth that this raccoon was in fact sick not rabid! Shameful

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