OH Drug Bust Triggers Hazmat Response

Aug. 1, 2018
At least 16 people, including seven Toledo police officers, were hospitalized late Tuesday after being exposed to a dangerous drug during a bust.

Aug. 1 -- At least 16 people, including seven Toledo police officers and two children, were transported to an area hospital late Tuesday after suspected exposure to a dangerous drug during a search warrant, according to Toledo police. 

Toledo Police Department’s SWAT team was executing a search warrant for the vice narcotics section at a residence in the 300 block of West Delaware Avenue just after 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to Toledo Police Department spokesman Lt. Kevan Toney. 

As the entry team progressed through the residence, one or more of the people inside the home attempted to destroy or conceal evidence, Lieutenant Toney said. In doing so, an unknown powder substance became airborne, exposing responding officers, detectives, and sergeants.  

Police said an unknown substance was observed on the kitchen counter.

Several people at the scene, including some of the officers, began experiencing signs of possible drug exposure, police said. Officers reported experiencing tightness in the chest, breathing difficulty, and tingling, police said. Toledo fire crews were called to the residence Tuesday, and determined a hazmat scene was required. 

While the hazmat team determined team members did not have to make entry, a decontamination area was set up at the scene, according to the fire department. 

Naloxone, an opioid-reversal medication, was not administered to anyone at the scene, Toledo Fire Department spokesman Pvt. Sterling Rahe said. 

Seven officers were transported to Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center for evaluation, Lieutenant Toney said. They have all been released. 

Additional officers, who were not directly affected, were cleared at the scene and their uniforms and equipment were gathered for decontamination, police said. 

Additionally, seven adults and two children — a two-year-old and a 3-month-old — from the home were also transported to the hospital for evaluation, according to police. They were all treated and released. 

Five people have been charged with drug-related offenses during the raid. They include:

Anthony Puente, 22, of the Delaware Avenue residence, is charged with trafficking in drugs,  a fourth-degree felony, and possession of cocaine, a fifth-degree felony. He is accused of possessing less than 5 grams of crack cocaine that was packaged in seven bags, according to documents filed in Toledo Municipal Court. The bags of cocaine were found inside Mr. Puente’s pocket, records show. 

April Hurst, 34, of Oak Harbor, is charged with possessing heroin, a fifth-degree felony. Detectives found a small bottle and metal vial that contained heroin inside Ms. Hurst’s vehicle after she was removed during a drug search warrant, according to court records. 

Joshua Hill, 37, of the Delaware Avenue residence, is charged with possessing heroin and possessing cocaine, both fifth-degree felonies. Mr. Hill possessed heroin that was found inside a metal vial and two bags of white powder were found next to him during a drug search warrant, according to court documents. 

Adelina Puente, 24, of the Delaware Avenue residence, is charged with possessing heroin and cocaine, both fifth-degree felonies, and possessing drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor offense. She is accused of possessing less than one gram of heroin and less than 5 grams of cocaine on her person during the search warrant, court documents show. Additionally, she is accused of possessing two crack pipes, which were found on her person, according to court documents. 

Canela Oviedo, 38, of Perrysburg, is accused of possessing less than 100 grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor offense. 

All except Ms. Oviedo appeared Wednesday in Toledo Municipal Court  where they were each released on their own recognizance and are scheduled to appear for a hearing next month.

Courtney Brewer, a neighbor who lives in the same building, said she heard a “big boom” late Tuesday night and saw the SWAT team bring people out of the central Toledo apartment. Police asked that other residents stay inside during the incident, but no one was evacuated, Ms. Brewer said.

She and her family were up all night, worried about whether anyone else would get sick because she still didn’t know what the substance was and whether it could contaminate other apartments.

“These walls are not that big,” she said.

Ms. Brewer has lived in the apartment for about two years and said she has seen a lot of foot traffic in and out of her neighbor’s home. She did not know exactly how many people lived in the apartment.

“I’m glad everybody is OK,” she said. “The officers did a real good job.”

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department posted a bright orange sign Wednesday morning that warned the unit was "unfit for human habitation."

Health department spokesman Shannon Lands said officials posted the sign to reduce the risk of additional exposure until further testing on the substance can be done.

It’s the second time in a week an officer has come in contact with a suspected dangerous drug. While Tuesday’s incident was a serious medical concern, last week’s hazmat incident at West Toledo home was a life or death situation, Lieutenant Toney said. 

Officers responded to an ill person last week in the 6100 block of Rolland Drive. Toledo fire crews administered naloxone to two people there, while another woman fled the home.

During the incident, Toledo police Officer Lisa Fauver began showing signs of a drug overdose. She called for help and administered herself naloxone. In total, she received 12 milligrams — which typically come in 2 milligram doses.

“It’s really concerning. We had an officer almost die last week due to these dangerous drugs being out there,” Lieutenant Toney said. “It’s making officers even more cautious when they go to these scenes. It could be a traffic stop, a search warrant ... this is a serious health problem for our community.”

From the Rolland Drive incident, a couple — Lindsay M. and Michael D. Lewandowski, both 32 — are each charged with permitting drug abuse and endangering children, according to an affidavit filed in Toledo Municipal Court. Investigators say the couple allowed a known drug user to stay in the home, where their five children were also present. 

“We haven’t come in contact with a drug that is this potent and it’s very scary and we’re working to get new procedure in place and review best practices and what we can do to maintain officer safety,” Lieutenant Toney said. “That’s first and foremost. Our job is to go out there and preserve life, but we can’t do that if we’re becoming exposed ourselves and in need of treatment.”

Samples from the Rolland Drive incident have been sent to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation for further testing and the same will be done for the Delaware Avenue incident. 

Investigators will compare the samples to see if they are linked, Lieutenant Toney said.

___ (c)2018 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) Visit The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) at www.toledoblade.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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