FARGO – Three overdose deaths in one week, possibly related to dangerous fentanyl-laced heroin, have prompted a coordinated response from area law enforcement, with dire warnings to the public and a round of arrests of suspected suppliers.
In a news conference at noon on Sunday, police made pleas for public vigilance as an uptick of illicit opiate overdoses is being seen around the region, Fargo Police Chief David Todd said.
“What happens in any one of our cities, really happens to us as a community as a whole and we have to tackle this issue together,” Todd said.
Todd announced that arrests of four suspected heroin suppliers were made at a south Fargo hotel Sunday morning, suspects he believes are connected to at least one overdose death on Saturday morning.
He said there may be other people who received the same drugs in the area.
“It could be extremely dangerous,” Todd said of the tainted narcotics. “I don’t want to have any more deaths out there.”
The suspected heroin could be laced with fentanyl, he said, which can be 40-50 times more potent than pure heroin and can be absorbed through the skin in some cases.
Because toxicology tests can take weeks, police couldn’t say for certain what substances have been found to be mixed in with the heroin.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate used to treat severe pain, according to the National Institutes of Health, and, when mixed with street drugs in powder form, can amplify their potency and cause breathing problems, unconsciousness, coma or death.
Opiates can include heroin, opium, hydrocodone and other substances.
Twin Cities – Linked suppliers arrested
Todd said a narcotics unit had been working for at least a day straight to investigate the recent overdoses. During the course of that investigation, police got word of possible heroin suppliers renting a room at a south Fargo hotel.
Three men were arrested in the parking lot of the Residence Inn at 4335 23rd Ave. S. in Fargo around 6:30 a.m. Sunday. A search warrant was executed on a hotel room, where a woman was arrested and about a half ounce of suspected heroin and a small amount of marijuana were seized.
A small child who was also inside the room was taken into protective custody, Todd said.
Jerrell Washington, 24: Accused of heroin possession with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and child neglect and abuse.
Marcel Washington, 25: Accused of giving false information to law enforcement, marijuana possession, drug paraphernalia and an outstanding warrant.
Reginald Washington, 24: Accused of heroin possession with intent to distribute, giving false information to law enforcement and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Heather Rouzier, 30: Accused of heroin possession with intent to distribute and child neglect and abuse.
At least two of those arrested have ties to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, said Fargo Police Sgt. Shannon Ruziska, the lieutenant in charge of narcotics investigation for the department.
Ruziska said police believe “a lot” of the opiates coming into the Fargo-Moorhead area are “channeling through” the Twin Cities before they get here. He said police previously hadn’t found heroin with an additive locally.
Overdoses leave several dead
The arrests come after an alarming surge in overdose deaths in Fargo in just the past week. Police said investigators are still working to determine if the cases are related.
According to police, the following overdose cases left three people dead and two injured:
March 6: John Weed, 37, died from a suspected opioid overdose in Fargo.
March 6: Tyson Chaney, 24, died from an opiate overdose in Fargo.
March 8: Suspected non-fatal opiate overdose in Dilworth.
March 9: Suspected non-fatal opiate overdose in Fargo.
March 12: Lucas Anderson, 26, died from an opiate overdose in Fargo.
“There’s no such thing as good heroin, it’s all bad. There’s no such thing as a good batch, it’s all bad stuff. Heroin can be extremely deadly, but if it has something in it … to make it even stronger, it can be extremely deadly,” Todd said. Read more…