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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

SPD warns of ‘possible lethal batch of drugs’ following overdoses

Three people died of apparent drug overdoses in less than three hours Wednesday morning, leading law enforcement in Spokane to warn of “a possible lethal batch of drugs.”

Authorities declined to say what kind of drugs were involved in the deaths. However, Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan took to social media Wednesday afternoon to call for stricter enforcement of border security laws to ensure illicit drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine, can’t be imported to the region.

“We need to start talking about this,” Fagan said in an interview Wednesday, after posting on Facebook that the country should “close the borders” to stop the flow of illegal drugs. “We’re going to start losing more of our children. Period. The bottom line is this, do we care more about political correctness or public safety?”

Fagan said he received a briefing from Spokane police indicating the deaths were tied to the use of heroin. Officer Teresa Fuller, police spokeswoman, declined to say what kind of drugs were involved.

The Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said there is no direct link between the deaths reported between 5:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. However, “the fact that there were three in such a short time is cause for concern,” the agencies said in a news release.

The first overdose was reported in the 100 block of West Third Avenue in Spokane, with a caller saying a man in his 20s was not breathing. The second, involving a woman who was reported to be unconscious, was in the 13600 block of East Fourth Street in Spokane Valley. The third came just after 8 a.m., involving a woman in her 20s sitting in a car on East Short Avenue in downtown Spokane. The caller said the woman hadn’t moved in a couple hours.

The medical examiner’s office is conducting autopsies on the three people, the release said.

Fagan pointed to mounting evidence from the Drug Enforcement Agency and other organizations indicating heroin is being imported at a greater rate from Mexican cartels as illicit prescription drugs become harder to traffic. The 2015 drug threat assessment from the DEA indicates heroin seizures increased 81 percent between 2010 and 2014, from 2,763 kilograms to 5,014 kilograms. The DEA reported the primary source of heroin in the western United States is Mexico.

“Mexican traffickers are making a concerted effort to increase heroin availability in the U.S. market,” the DEA concluded.

Fagan said he wasn’t advocating “literally shutting down” the border to address the growing drug problem, but making sure existing laws are enforced. That request has been made by several Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.

“We need to do a better job of vetting the people who are coming in,” Fagan said.

Jodie Underwood, a spokeswoman with the DEA regional field office, said border security was “one component” of a discussion aiming to stem the tide of illicit drugs.

“We also have prevention through education, and enforcement in the United States,” Underwood said. “There’s a large demand for drugs in the United States.”

Police and sheriff’s deputies are asking anyone with information on the three overdose deaths, or with information on drug distribution in the area, to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233, or call the county’s tip line anonymously at (509) 477-3181.