It is believed two more people have died of a drug overdose in Western New York, this time in the Village of East Aurora and City of Buffalo.
Late Saturday evening, police in East Aurora say a 49-year-old man was found dead in his home. Authorities believe he died of a heroin overdose and are awaiting test results. And in Buffalo on Tuesday, authorities say a person was found dead in the Lovejoy neighborhood and it is believed to be drug-related.
On Monday, two people were found dead at the Motel 6 on Freeman Drive in Lancaster. Police also believe the 23-year-old man and his 28-year-old girlfriend died of drug overdoses.
Though police have not said whether these deaths are connected, News 4 has reported on a deadly fentanyl-heroin mixture in the past that lead to a string of overdose deaths throughout Western New York.
Erie County Sheriff Senior Detective Alan Rozansky said, “It’s not limited to one area. This is spreading out and I don’t think anyone is going to stop and say, ‘Okay, we can’t sell fentanyl anymore.’ I think it’s a big problem and it’s probably going to get bigger.”
Rozansky says law enforcement officers are finding more situations where pure fentanyl is being sold as heroin. But fentanyl is 100 times more potent.
“From what chemists are telling me, this is so potent, if it is injected in the arm, the chances of living are slim to none,” he said.
In many cases, drug users do not know exactly what they are buying, such as the case of 20-year-old Angel Marcial, who police say was dealing drugs.
“Kids would pull up from the suburbs and they were buying what they suspected to be heroin and in fact it was pure fentanyl. Had we not, in one case, intercepted the individual, he would have died because it was fentanyl that he had purchased,” Rozansky said.
Fentanyl is typically used in hospitals to help cancer patients with pain.
“If we get a case of fentanyl, we don’t wait around. If we know that we have suspects who might be selling fentanyl or heroin-fentanyl, we respond immediately as quick as we can because obviously the people who are purchasing it are going to be dying,” Rozansky said.
In 2009, four people died from the mixture in a two-month period. And in June last year, the Erie County Health Department began alerting first responders that the drug mixture is causing an increase in cases of heroin overdoses. In both of those outbreaks, the person allegedly selling the deadly concoction was found and arrested.
In 2009, Joann Rusby of LeRoy was sentenced to five years in prison for causing the death of Yvonne Hart. Peter Militello of Tonawanda was indicted last year for the death of Robert Runfola, and he could face life in prison if convicted.
Rozansky says law enforcement agencies are working together to crack down on the problem. Anyone with information should call their local police department or the Erie County Sheriff’s confidential tipline at 858-7755.