An Ohio police officer nearly died after coming into contact with the deadly opioid fentanyl while making a drugs bust on Friday night (12 May).
East Liverpool patrolman Chris Green was back at the station an hour after making the arrest when a colleague pointed out he had some white powder on his shirt. He brushed it off with his hands – within minutes he was overdosing.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate 100 times more powerful than heroin currently causing devastation throughout communities in North America.
Green told the Morning Journal that drugs "are not only killing the people willing to shove it into their own veins, now they're killing people like me and my family."
His life was saved by paramedics, who treated him with Narcan, an opioid blocker.
The officer had been careful to wear regulation gloves and a mask while searching a car on Lisbon Street that was suspected of having been involved in a recent drug deal.
The vehicle was covered in white powder. It is believed that driver Justin Buckel, 25, and passenger Cortez Collins, 24, had broken open stash bags and tried to disguise the substance in the floor of the vehicle.
"When I got to the scene, he [Buckel] was covered in it. I patted him down, and that was the only time I didn't wear gloves. Otherwise, I followed protocol," Green said.
Fentanyl powder is so potent that it can be lethal to touch. Green began feeling strange after he made contact with it for a second time – back at the station.
"I started talking weird," he said. "I slowly felt my body shutting down. I could hear them talking, but I couldn't respond. I was in total shock. 'No way I'm overdosing,' I thought."
Paramedics had already been called because Buckel, who was charged for tampering with evidence, indicated he was feeling unwell. Both he and Green were saved by being administered with Narcan.
East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane said: "If he [Green] would have been alone, he would have been dead. That's how dangerous this stuff is. What if he went home and got it on his family members?
"We're going to try and seize that car and destroy it. How do we neutralise it? It only takes one granule to kill an adult. These people have no regard for anybody, not themselves, not the police, not their kids.Their priority is not about anything but that next high."
Police say they no longer routinely field-test drugs and have begun to double bag all narcotics evidence because of fears that officers will be exposed to fentanyl and carfentanyl, its even deadlier cousin.
Earlier this month, Canadian police published a picture appearing to show a nest of needles, used to administer opiates, made by pigeons in Vancouver.