FLEMING ISLAND – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio looked in astonishment when he was told about a Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputy who, just a day earlier, was overwhelmed by an apparent fentanyl …
FLEMING ISLAND – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio looked in astonishment when he was told about a Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputy who, just a day earlier, was overwhelmed by an apparent fentanyl overdose.
The deputy was testing the substance seized during a DUI arrest was indeed fentanyl when he told a fellow deputy he needed an ambulance. Just touching the synthetic opioid can be deadly, especially for law enforcement officers without tolerance.
A FCSO deputy administered Narcan to save the other deputy’s life, Sheriff David Williams said. Narcan is a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
More than 15 law enforcement officials, including representatives from the Green Cove Springs and Orange Park police departments, met with deputies and drug chiefs from several sheriff’s offices at CCSO’s Fleming Island substation to tell Rubio the fentanyl crisis has never been greater in Northeast Florida. They asked for help on the federal level – especially securing the southern border – to better restrict drug flow into the country.
“It is overwhelming, really overwhelming,” Cook said. “It really is priority No. 1 for law enforcement in Northeast Florida.”
Cook said distributors and street-level dealers are so eager to create addicts many now give Narcan with purchases. She said they are adding fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine, to marijuana to hook unsuspecting victims.
“This is a local problem. It’s a state problem. It’s a national problem, and only through the cooperative efforts and enforcement from the local, state and federal partners can we even make a dent in this,” Cook said.
“Standing here today. I want to tell you, as a parent and as a sheriff, you need to talk to your kids. We are seeing fentanyl being laced into almost anything and everything. A child or a young person could be experimenting with drugs. Something as simple as marijuana is laced with fentanyl. This could kill them. And so you have to be talking to your kids about drugs and not taking things given to them by their friends or people they don’t know.”
Cook said her agency learned of an overdose death, the 25th in the county this year, minutes before the roundtable.
“It’s like some of the other drug epidemics we have faced in the past,” Rubio said. “This is the first where incidental exposure to the drug can actually kill everyone around, including the person or the people who responded to that call. So we have a very serious challenge here.”
Rubio said the federal government needs to fight the scourage from several directions.
“We’re really deeply concerned about border security,” he said. “It’s not just that I’m not in favor of someone coming into this country. They want to work here, but the real danger in the country, the immediate danger, is it’s not just the person who’s crossing illegally because they have a relative here. They want to work here.
“That network that traffics them is the same network that’s also bringing in the drugs. You have to disrupt that network. It’s too easy to get across the country. And so we have a lot of work to do in that regard in terms of improving that.”
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper didn’t mince words when describing the drug crisis.
“They don’t give a $&#@ about closing the border,” he said. Leeper then held up a ballpoint pen and said you could put enough fentanyl on the tip of a pen to kill someone.
Rubio said another key will be the upcoming presidential election in Mexico. Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador doesn’t appear to be as concerned about the flow of drugs from the cartels into the United States.
“There will be a change in government in Mexico at some point here (in 2024) with a new election coming up,” Rubio said. “We need an administration over there that’s more open to disrupting the activities of these cartels.”
Rubio also said the federal government also needs to be tougher on China, which provides the cartels with the chemicals that become fentanyl.
Cook said most Northeast Florida counties and municipalities combine resources to create a more formative line of defense. But for now, it’s an impossible battle.