By September 21, 2016 Read More →

Fentanyl blamed in Huntington’s mass overdoses

Herald-Dispatch file photo by Courtney Hessler  Bruce Lamar Griggs, 22, of Akron, Ohio, exits the federal courthouse in Huntington after a preliminary hearing in magistrate court on Sept. 6, 2016.

Herald-Dispatch file photo by Courtney Hessler
Bruce Lamar Griggs, 22, of Akron, Ohio, exits the federal courthouse in Huntington after a preliminary hearing in magistrate court on Sept. 6, 2016.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — An indictment charging an Ohio man of distributing heroin that resulted in 27 overdoses in Huntington on Aug. 15 alleges that the street drug was mixed with fentanyl.

The federal indictment against Bruce Lamar “Benz” Griggs, 22, of Akron, Ohio, was the first indication of what might have made the heroin distributed that day so potent. Griggs was previously jailed Aug. 27 after an investigation by the Huntington Police Department.

The indictment alleges Griggs knowingly and intentionally conspired to distribute a quantity of heroin, a schedule I controlled substance, and a quantity of fentanyl, a schedule II controlled substance, and that serious bodily injury resulted from the use of such substances.

 Griggs was jailed after several overdose patients implicated him, Huntington FBI Drug Task Force agent Paul Hunter said in an affidavit filed in federal court.

Fentanyl is an opioid used as part of anesthesia to help prevent pain after surgery or other medical procedures. It is about 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Griggs was arrested by the Tallmadge, Ohio, police department and appeared before a U.S. magistrate judge in the Northern District of Ohio before being returned to West Virginia for prosecution. He waived a preliminary hearing and has awaited indictment since early September.

Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli said quick work by patrol officers helped lead investigators to the arrest.

After interviews, officers retrieved surveillance video from cameras maintained in the Marcum Terrace area showing an individual matching Griggs’ description exchanging drugs for money between 2:09 p.m. and 3 p.m. Aug. 15, the affidavit claims.

 Within a half-hour of the exchanges, Cabell County 911 was flooded with calls of overdoses. By 9 p.m., 26 overdoses had been reported.

Twelve doses of naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversing drug, were used to revive victims. Three of those were for one patient. The remaining patients were revived using bag-valve masks, handheld devices used to provide ventilation to patients not breathing.

Two men were later believed to have died as a result. One man died at an area hospital after those who called 911 did not disclose he had a history of drug use and overdoses, while a second was found dead at Prestera Center’s Pinecrest apartments on U.S. 60 on Aug. 17, but Cabell County Sheriff Tom McComas said it is too soon to say whether that death was connected.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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