Police say former fire district employee allegedly stole narcotics to feed addiction

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — Sequim police believe a former Clallam County Fire District No. 3 employee stole painkillers from a district fire station to feed his drug addiction, a detective said Wednesday.

Detective Sgt. Sean Madison said police believe Paul Rynearson, 40, who has resigned as a firefighter/paramedic, used morphine he allegedly stole from the fire station in Sequim in early October.

“We believe this is Mr. Rynearson feeding his own addiction that got way out of hand,” Madison said Wednesday.

“All evidence, including Mr. Rynearson’s own statement, points to that this was a personal use issue.”

Police forwarded the file to the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office earlier this week, Police Chief Bill Dickinson said.

Police believe Rynearson, a Sequim resident, was involved in both the Oct. 4 and Oct. 6 reports of missing drugs.

Mark Nichols, chief deputy prosecuting attorney, said Tuesday the case had been assigned to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jesse Espinoza.

The recommended charges are at least one count each of theft and possibly burglary, Dickinson has said.

Rynearson has not been placed into custody and has not been booked into the Clallam County jail, Madison said.

Letter of resignation

Fire Chief Steve Vogel said Rynearson “self-resigned” by sending him a letter of resignation Oct. 15 and will be paid and retain his medical benefits until the end of November.

Rynearson had been placed on administrative leave Oct. 3 for reasons unrelated to narcotic painkillers reported missing from the fire station, Vogel said.

A hand-sized box containing painkillers was found to be missing Oct. 1 during a daily inventory of medications, Vogel said.

District staff looked for the box for two days without success before police were alerted, Vogel said.

“We just tore every cabinet apart, couldn’t find it. We didn’t find it, and we called the Police Department,” Vogel said.

Administrative leave

Vogel said he placed Rynearson on administrative leave with pay and health benefits after Rynearson reported for duty seeming tired and distracted.

“He said he wasn’t getting enough sleep and rest,” Vogel said.

“I said, ‘You’re going to be put on administrative leave until we know what’s going on.’”

Rynearson, a firefighter/paramedic with Fire District No. 3 since 1999, was paid roughly $85,000 per year, plus benefits, Vogel said.

Oct. 6 theft

In the Oct. 6 theft, Madison said a fire district employee called police to the fire station at about midnight after seeing Rynearson on the property, though he was not there when police arrived.

“That was [Rynearson] being there when he was not supposed to be there,” Madison said.

District staff called again a few hours later to report a narcotics box had been opened and a vial of morphine inside tampered with, Madison said.

“We believe it had been replaced with saline,” he said.

“Mr. Rynearson himself, according to fire [district] employees, later himself texted a paramedic and warned them what he had done, so that there couldn’t be an instance where someone thought that they were using morphine when they were actually using saline,” Madison said.

Vogel has said cameras have since been installed in the fire station room from which the drugs were taken, an effort already underway but sped up by the alleged thefts.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 13. 2013 7:07PM
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