Falmouth, MA – a Falmouth man was charged with attempted murder after he allegedly threw heroin at two police officers.
According to CBS News, Russell Pena, 38, was arrested Friday morning on charges that he was distributing heroin and cocaine. Pena’s passenger, 48-year-old Michael Lopes of Mashpee, was also arrested for drug-related charges.
It wasn’t until Pena was brought into the station and being booked that something went wrong. Based upon the police account, Pena began to struggle and get combative with the officers.
Police Lt. Douglas DeCosta commented that, “During this struggle he was able to remove a bag of narcotics believed to be heroin from his pants in the area of his genitals….Pena then tore the bag apart and dispersed the drugs in the air purposely toward and onto the police officers.”
This brings to mind a very real and present danger that law enforcement faces daily.
Fentanyl Exposure – A new chemical danger
The greatest danger the police faced as that time was that they weren’t 100% positive what the contents of the bag were. Although it was assumed to be heroin, without proper testing, it could have been any white powder. CBS Boston also reported that the air conditioning in the police station turned off prevent the substance from being circulated in the room, or through the station, where it could be inhaled through the mouth or nose, or absorbed into the skin or eyes. Pena and the two officers were then taken to the hospital and then released after treatment.
Due to his dangerous and irresponsible alleged behavior, Pena is now facing two counts of attempted murder in addition to a count of possessing a Class B controlled substance, and a count of trafficking a Class A controlled substance. He is being held on $250,000 bail. The reason for the attempted murder charges is due to the danger of fentanyl: it is so powerful that it can be lethal. This outlines one of the new and most severe health dangers that law enforcement around the country now faces.
Fentanyl Exposure – a new danger for law enforcement
Exposure to potential harmful or deadly chemicals is not a new risk for law officers. Another particular danger is from Methamphetamines. According to the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, law enforcement personnel who have investigated clandestine methamphetamine drug labs (CDC, 2005) have a 7-15 times higher risk of becoming ill when compared to other activities with apparently lower chemical exposure.
Fentanyl Exposure – DEA Warns of Dangers
In regards to Fentanyl exposure, The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a specific release for law enforcement. They have determined it is “a dangerous, powerful Schedule II narcotic” and said it is “up to 50 times more potent than heroin.” They also stated “it is extremely dangerous to law enforcement and anyone else who may come into contact with it. As a result, it represents an unusual hazard for law enforcement.”
The DEA also warned law enforcement that “Just touching fentanyl or accidentally inhaling the substance…is one of the biggest dangers with fentanyl. The onset of adverse health effects, such as disorientation, coughing, sedation, respiratory distress or cardiac arrest is very rapid and profound, usually occurring within minutes of exposure.”
K-9 Units are at an even higher risk of exposure as well, and have elevated dangers.
US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health