Police arrest alleged drug dealer after spike in fentanyl overdoses downtown
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, February 27, 2020 11:17AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 27, 2020 4:13PM EST
Police have arrested an alleged drug dealer who they believe was responsible for the distribution of a “potentially lethal batch of fentanyl” that caused more than a dozen overdoses on Wednesday.
Police were dispatched to a supervised injection facility located at 277 Victoria Street on Wednesday evening after being made aware of a spike in overdoses.
Supt. Steve Watts said that members of the drug squad “commenced an immediate investigation” and were able to locate and arrest a suspect within about two hours.
He said that the suspect was taken into custody “very close” to the supervised injection facility where many of the overdoses occurred.
“While we have arrested one alleged dealer there is also the possibility that further batches of this substance remains on our streets at this time,” Watts told reporters at a news conference on Thursday afternoon. “As we have stated on numerous occasions the message to the public remains the same. Purchasing and ingesting street drugs truly is a form of Russian roulette.”
Toronto Public Health previously said that a total of 14 people were taken to hospital from its facility at 277 Victoria Street between 3:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Wednesday for suspected overdoses.
Watts said despite being administered naloxone, which is a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, many of the individuals did not immediately recover and thus required further treatment in hospital.
He said that “given the apparent infectiveness of naloxone last night” police believe that the fentanyl could have been mixed with other substances.
In Halton Region, for example, Watts said that a batch of drugs seized earlier this year has since been determined to be a mix of fentanyl, caffeine and a central nervous system depressant known as flualprazolam, which could act as an inhibitor to naloxone.
The drugs seized on Wednesday have been sent to a Health Canada laboratory for testing.
“We may be dealing with the same or a similar mixture of drugs,” Watts said.
‘Very good chance’ more people could have overdosed
Watts said that there is a “very good chance that many more people” would have overdosed if police were not able to quickly identify and apprehend the suspected dealer.
He said that at this point it appears as though the individual was hanging around in the vicinity of the supervised injection facility with the intent of selling to its clients, something that he conceded is relatively common.
He said that while he isconfident that police “got the individual responsible for distribution in that area,” it is not clear whether the tainted drugs could still be on the streets.
In a statement issued earlier on Thursday, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that staff at the supervised injection facility immediately shared information with the broader harm reduction community” upon becoming aware of the spike in overdoses.
She said extra staff were also brought in and a decision was made to keep the facility open for an extra hour.
“Drug overdose is a significant public health issue with devastating impacts for many,” she said. “The events that unfolded yesterday clearly demonstrate the need for supervised consumption services in our community and the life-saving benefit they provide.”
Whanny Mymuller, 38, is charged with two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of possession of the proceeds of crime.