Local officials are hoping a country music star will help raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl with a free concert on Oct. 29 at the U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park.
The event will be headlined by Chris Young, who was nominated earlier this year for Album of the Year by the Academy of Country Music and has made multiple platinum albums.
“Fentanyl is poisoning our community, it kills indiscriminately, it wreaks havoc on the peace and order of our region and leaves a scourge of property crime and violence in its path,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said in a public announcement on Monday. “Just yesterday, we once again saw that violence play out in downtown Spokane on a sunny fall Sunday with a police officer who was injured in a narcotics distribution investigation.”
A suspect, who has not yet been named, was transported to the hospital with life-threatening injuries as a result of the shooting.
“We are vigorously seeking to disrupt the sources of drugs into our community and to send a strong deterrent message to criminal drug networks,” U.S. attorney Vanessa Waldref said on Monday, flanked by Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. “We will continue this effort and everyday my team is seeking justice in these critical cases, but we have to do more to stop this influx of drugs and the impacts they are having on our families and our community.”
Law enforcement, city officials and the Spokane Alliance for Fentanyl Education hope that by spreading awareness and educating the community on the dangers of fentanyl, they will reduce the demand for fentanyl in the community.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Spokane’s location near the Canadian border and along Interstate 90 makes it a central hub for narcotic distribution nationally and internationally.
There were 146 drug overdose deaths in 2021 in Spokane County, 80 of which were from fentanyl, according to the DEA’s numbers.
The drug has become increasingly common and easier to purchase online and order through social media, said Laci Larsen, acting assistant special agent in charge for the DEA in Spokane.
“The accessibility of fentanyl is what we’re seeing. It’s everywhere,” she said. “It’s not like the old days when it was harder to find illicit drugs.”
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, generally makes its way into the U.S. through Mexican cartels.
The DEA has identified a number of cartel personnel in Yakima County and in the Tri-Cities who are helping distribute the drug throughout the region, Larsen said. The Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation are the predominant cartels operating in Washington, she said.
“Each of you in our community has the power to say ‘no’ to help others say ‘no’ to fentanyl,” Woodward said. “No more drugs. No more violence. Spokane will no longer be held hostage to drugs and drug dealers. This is not a fight federal and local law enforcement can do alone.”
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