State Police continue to look into source of drug-related deaths

State Police Spokesperson Jack Keller says the investigation is continuing into whether a Utica man sold the heroin/fentanyl mixture that a number of people recently overdosed on and died.

Posted: Feb 19, 2018 6:05 PM

Utica, N.Y. - New York State Police are continuing to look into whether a Utica man sold a deadly combination of heroin and fentanyl that may have caused the deaths of a number of local individuals.

How many individuals are we talking? State Police Troop D Spokesperson Jack Keller says that is part of the ongoing investigation.

Keller says investigators are continuing to look into whether 35 year old Jesse Brown of Utica sold a mix of heroin and fentanyl to area residents who ultimately died from overdoses of a heroin/fetanyl mix.

The individuals who have died from the heroin/fentanyl combination are from both Oneida County and Herkimer County.

Keller says no further information on the case will be released until the investigation is complete.

The investigation started on Friday after the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team executed a search warrant at 10 Johnson Park in Utica.

Police arrested 35 year old Jesse Brown and charged him with criminal possession of a controlled substance, and officers says they seized 26 grams of a heroin/fetanyl mix.

Utica Police Chief Mark Williams says even though the raid was made in Utica, this case is a State Police case so he can't comment on the investigation, but he does say people need to be very aware of the very real dangers of fentanyl which he says is becoming a bigger and bigger problem, "We know people are dying in Oneida county and there’s quite a bit of overdoses that are occurring, but yes quite often we see fentanyl either sold in pure form, or mixed with heroin."

Fentanyl is a painkiller commonly used in hospital operating rooms. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Williams says sometimes people don't know the heroin they are using actually has fentanyl in it, while others know it's in there but don't realize how much more potent the mix of the two drugs is than just the potency of heroin alone, "Sometimes when the addicts are aware that it is mixed with the fentanyl, they want it that much more because they’re seeing that ultimate high. So they don’t look at it from a danger standpoint, they look at it as a means to get the ultimate high."

In her 40-plus years working at the Insight House in Utica, Insight House President Donna Vitagliano says the current problem with people using a mixture of heroin and fentanyl may be one of the worst she's seen, "A lot of times people don’t know what it (fentanyl) is, or some people feel like 'We'll I’ll give it a try', but have no idea of what to expect."

Like Chief Williams, Vitagliano is also warning people to be aware of the dangers of fentanyl, "I think it’s a different kind of high, I think it’s a substance that’s available, and honestly people are using everything and anything, they don’t know what the combination consists of."

Vitagliano says she has heard that cocaine is even being used in a mixture with heroin, and in some cases cocaine is being mixed with both heroin and fentanyl, "It’s cocaine mixed with heroin, possibly some fentanyl. You just don’t know. You don’t know what the mix is, so the people using it don’t know. They’re expecting just heroin and in fact it’s a combination of one or two. It’s that much more potent."

Brown is due to appear in Utica City Court on Thursday.

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