In Utah, fentanyl is set to rapidly overshadow the current heroin epidemic. Naturally, law enforcement wants to be prepared for what could come. On September 13, 2016, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber issued a warning regarding the threat fentanyl presents. In the press conference, he pointed to a case where a man was caught pressing fake oxycodone with fentanyl analogs. He stressed that officers on the scene were not clear on what to do and this needs to change.
The warning was not just directed towards potential drug users. Anyone who comes into contact with the drug is at a risk.
“Unsuspecting drug abusers or addicts will take what they think is a pain pill that they’re used to taking, but it has been laced with this substance that is so powerful it can kill a healthy human being with as little as two milligrams,” he tells the press.
DEA Special Agent Brian Besser spoke at the press conference and voiced similar concerns. “It is a grave risk for law enforcement, for public health care workers and for first responders,” he said. Besser is encouraging police to be vigilant in avoiding contact with the drug. Law enforcement officers should avoid field testing or collecting anything suspected to be fentanyl. Instead, he says, hazmat equipment should be used to properly collect, test, and label the drug.
“We’re concerned for law enforcement and for first responders. You can absorb Fentanyl through the powder and you can inhale it. You can also absorb it through your skin which is incredibly dangerous for us as first responders and for the public,” said Layton Police Department Sergeant Clint Bobrowsky.
The warning was prompted by Nathaniel Jetter’s arrest where police were inadequately prepared for safely handling the situation. Five officers had to be decontaminated and treated for opioid overdose. Hazmat crews promptly arrived at the scene and evacuated the entire motel. Reports indicate that the drug was a fentanyl analog but no specifics have been released.
In June, Adult Probation and Parole agents responded to a tip about someone in violation of probation. Jetter was not permitted to leave his legal residence. The tip led Probation officers to the Majestic Rockies Motel in Sandy where Jetter was staying.
Inside the motel room, law enforcement found a pill press, equipment to counterfeit trademarks, and a loaded firearm. They then found the powdered fentanyl analog and asked for immediate DEA assistance. The five officers that were in contact with the drug were carried off to the hospital but did end up surviving.
Jetter told the officers that he had purchased the pill press and fentanyl analog on the deepweb.
Huber told the press that Jetter’s situation was the first “illegal fentanyl lab in Utah.” He does, however, count on more labs to start popping up. The money that comes from selling fake pain pills, made with fentanyl, is far greater than actually reselling real pain pills. “A modest investment of between $3,500 and $4,000 — one kilogram — can generate into thousands of pills and millions of dollars in profits,” said Brian Besser.