RIVERSIDE COUNTY, California — Fentanyl deaths in American communities 115 miles north of the United States-Mexico border have skyrocketed by 800 percent in recent years, officials reveal.
In Riverside County, fixed between Los Angeles and San Diego, the fentanyl crisis has surged to levels that residents never imagined. Here sits the town of Temecula, with a population of less than 115,000, known for its old-world downtown area and wine country.
These days, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin says the area is fighting a danger pouring over the border unlike anything residents have seen — fentanyl.
In the last five years, Hestrin says the number of fentanyl-related deaths has increased by more than 800 percent. Though official figures are not in for 2021, the fentanyl death toll is expected to exceed the prior year’s record-breaking total.
Hestrin said residents are often unknowingly ingesting so much fentanyl that they have to be revived with multiple doses of the anecdote known as Narcan. In one recent case, Hestrin said, a woman had to be given 13 doses of Narcan to bring her back to life after having overdosed on fentanyl.
The region’s fentanyl death rate has prompted Hestrin to go after drug dealers, charging them with manslaughter when their clients ultimately die from taking fentanyl. In Orange County, California — which neighbors Riverside County — the case of 14-year-old Alexander Hastings Neville swept national headlines after the young teen died from taking a pill laced with fentanyl.
“We must take a war-like footing against those killing Americans,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) said this week during a meeting in Temecula. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) suggested a similar plan of action that would criminally charge every individual in the chain of fentanyl distribution with murder when an American dies.
“A finger of fentanyl on your lips, you die, and if someone gives you mouth-to-mouth, they also die,” Issa said.
While California officials said their Democrat-controlled legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) are uninterested in helping communities like Riverside County fight fentanyl dealers, federal prosecutors have made headway in recent months.
In February, federal prosecutors in San Diego successfully scored a 25-year prison sentence against 31-year-old Jahvaris Lamoun Springfield for having sold U.S. Army veteran Brendan James Gallagher a fatal dose of fentanyl that resulted in the man’s death.
The sentence is the longest that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California has ever recorded for the crime of distributing fentanyl resulting in death.
Nationally, more than 100,000 Americans are dying every year from drug overdoses, including tiny doses of fentanyl. Put another way, the U.S. is losing a population the size of South Bend, Indiana, every year from drugs primarily coming across the border.
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