‘Overwhelming;’ Local Sheriffs, Senator Rubio brainstorm attack on fentanyl crisis

A chilling body camera video shows a local deputy’s encounter with fentanyl, as he asks another deputy for an ambulance. This close call Thursday was one of many topics of conversation at a fentanyl roundtable in Clay County Friday morning.

Over a dozen top law enforcement officials from the region, joined by US Senator Marco Rubio, met to devise strategies against the spread of the deadly drug.

The footage captures a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy in distress due to fentanyl exposure. Urgently, a fellow officer administers Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal medication, striving to save a life. “My heart is beating crazy,” the affected deputy tells his colleague be heard saying in the gripping video.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Chief David Williams told News4JAX the scenario could have been much worse if the deputies hadn’t been carrying Narcan.

“Sheriffs and police officers are typically not drug dealers, so we have a very low tolerance to those things,” Chief Williams explained.

Friday morning, Senator Marco Rubio led a roundtable discussion with law enforcement leaders, confronting the escalating fentanyl crisis. “These are not FDA approved products. You don’t know what’s in there and how much,” Senator Rubio underscored, highlighting the risks associated with fentanyl.

Sheriff Michelle Cook of Clay County described the situation as using a garden hose to put out a wildfire.

“I want to tell you this as a parent, and as a sheriff, you need to talk to your kids,” Sheriff Cook said. “We are seeing fentanyl being laced into almost anything and everything. And a child, or a young person that could be experimenting with drugs, or something as simple as marijuana, if it’s laced with fentanyl, this could kill them.”

“It is overwhelming. It really is overwhelming. It is priority number one for law enforcement here in Northeast Florida,” Sheriff Cook stressed, shedding light on the spikes in fentanyl-related incidents.

Sheriff Bill Leeper of Nassau County said the U.S. Mexico border was not secure. He mentioned a recent case where his detectives arrested a teenage mother after her child died of a fentanyl overdose.

Chief Steve Gallagher, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s chief of homeland security, said the drugs usually come in powder form from Mexico, the Caribbean, and China through hub cities, like Orlando and New York.

He highlighted JSO’s work to arrest dealers responsible for deadly overdoses, noting JSO made 126 overdose arrests last year. The agency charged 19 people with homicide related to overdoses.

Rubio emphasized the need for comprehensive measures. “If you buy any drug off the street from anyone, you have no idea what’s in there,” he cautioned, calling for more federal resources and cooperation between local, state, and federal agencies.

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