Mass. officers sickened by suspected fentanyl exposure

Three officers were searching an apartment after a call about drug dealing when they felt lightheaded and complained of a funny taste in their mouths


By Jill Harmacinski
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

LAWRENCE, Mass. — Three police officers were possibly exposed to the dangerous opioid fentanyl after a Summer Street mother told police her son and a friend were dealing drugs out of her apartment Monday night.

The officers, Richard Brooks, Leo Silvera and Philip Hendricks, said they felt lightheaded and complained of a funny taste in their mouths after responding to the first floor apartment at 30 Summer St. just after 7 p.m.

A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington Va., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington Va., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

An unknown quantity of what appeared to be "heroin and fentanyl," two opioids that are commonly mixed, was found in a bedroom of the apartment, according to a police report.

The three officers "were all feeling sick from the search of the apartment" and were taken to Lawrence General Hospital ER for treatment.

Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said Narcan, a drug which reverses the effect of an opioid overdose was not used. The three officers were checked out as a precaution and later released, he said.

Fentanyl is a manmade opioid which is 50 times stronger than morphine. Simple contact with fentanyl can be harmful, first responders have said.

The drug is often mixed with illegal doses of heroin and has been blamed for fatal overdoses throughout the region, which remains in the grip of an opioid epidemic.

Walter Garcia, 35, of 30 Summer St., was arrested and charged with illegal drug possession as a result of the incident.

Both Garcia and his friend were in the apartment when police arrived, according to the report.

Garcia said his friend was in the bathroom — but when police opened the door they discovered "the male that was in the bathroom had jumped out through the bathroom window and fled the area," according to the report.

In the report, officers said "in plain view in the bathroom trash" they found a glassine baggie containing several small glassine baggies of a "white and brown powder substance."

Police also asked the woman if she knew where her son was hiding the drugs in the apartment. She said right before police arrived her son "had placed something in a plastic bag under the cabinets of the sink."

The woman also gave the officers permission to search her son's bedroom. She signed a consent to search form, according to the police report.

During the bedroom search, police found "more quantity of what appears to be heroin and fentanyl."

"The quantity of the drugs was not documented due to the fact that we believed there to be fentanyl mixed with the glassine baggies containing heroin," according to the report.

Cell phones, cash, credit cards and identifications from several individuals were also seized as evidence by police.

©2017 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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