Sheriff warns drug dealers fentanyl overdoses could lead to murder charges
Get TPR's best stories of the day and a jump start to the weekend with the 321 Newsletter — straight to your inbox every day. Sign up for it here.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar has announced local fentanyl overdoses will now be investigated as possible homicides under a new state law.
Salazar said fentanyl overdoses will no longer be considered only as an overdose. There's a process to turn an overdose case into a homicide case.
"If you're expecting to take drug A but in reality, someone slipped you drug B and drug B killed you, that by definition is a poisoning,' Salazar said.
He said there are already six to eight such potential homicide investigations involving fentanyl underway from this year.
He said that sort of homicide investigation can be more complicated than one involving a shooting. Communications between dealers and victims are a key factor behind what direction an investigation takes.
"We seize cellphones, we run warrants on cellphones ... 'were they texting back and forth"' " he explained. "'Were they talking on social media — if so, what was the content?' and then we go from there. And if at some point it looks as if the victim was unwittingly poisoned by somebody, then absolutely we may be making that arrest for a homicide type offense."
The sheriff said finished fentanyl is sometimes shipped directly from China into the U.S but more commonly the precursor chemicals arrive from China in Mexico where the drug is finished and then shipped into the U.S.
He said figures from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) show 90% of fentanyl-laced pills that make their way into the U.S. are transported by U.S. citizens.
Salazar said it's cheaper for Mexican drug cartels to make deadlier, fake prescription pills, resembling Xanax for example, using fentanyl, than obtaining real Xanax.
"The reason that it's taken the form of prescription pills or fake prescription pills is because, quite frankly, that is what the cartels know there's a market for here in our country," he said. "They know that unfortunately there's thousands if not millions of young people who use prescription medications recreationally."
He said cartels do not care about killing off their customers.
"To them, it's just dollars and cents," he said. "'Okay, so we killed a hundred today. There will be another thousand that can't wait to take their place tomorrow.' So to them, it's the cost of doing business that some of our young people might die here as a result of this poison."
Using materials from the DEA, the sheriff said he appears at community education events called "One Pill Can Kill," often accompanied by two local mom speakers, known as "Angel Moms," who lost children to a fentanyl overdose.
He said one such mom as an experiment purchased prescription pills from a Mexican pharmacy, which she told him tested positive here for fentanyl.
He said while the pharmacy may have been duped too, he is concerned for local seniors or those in chronic pain who may travel to a Mexican pharmacy to "save a buck" on prescription pills only to suffer lethal consequences as a result.