Harlingen police tracking down fentanyl drug supplier, dealers

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The Harlingen Police Department is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy: Harlingen Police Department/Facebook)

HARLINGEN — Police are tracking down the supplier and dealers spiking cocaine and crack with fentanyl to make the drug stronger, luring addicts to deadly doses in the biggest outbreak of the powerful opioid to hit the area, officials said.

On Wednesday, the Harlingen area’s death toll stood at eight, with 12 known overdoses since the outbreak began exploding Oct. 2.

Investigators are planning “multiple” arrests,” Sgt. Larry Moore said.

“We’re following up on some information we have,” he said. “You have your supplier and your distributors. It will be multiple.”

Those arrested would face homicide charges if their victims died, Deputy Police Chief Alfredo Alvear said.

In the Harlingen area, investigators believe some dealers are spiking powder cocaine and crack cocaine with fentanyl to lure more addicts, Alvear said.

“The dealer that provides a stronger drug is the dealer people go to,” he said. “It makes it lethal.”

As little as two milligrams of the fentanyl, an opiod 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, makes the drug deadly, he said.

Investigators believe fentanyl is behind the deaths based on their high numbers, Alvear said.

“The number of deaths — a small dose of the drug is lethal,” he said.

Now, authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine whether fentanyl led to the deaths.

Since Oct. 2, the South Texas Emergency Care Foundation has been responding to overdose deaths in the Harlingen area, Rene Perez, the agency’s transport director, said.

“Pretty much anything surrounding Harlingen has been our focus,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, the Harlingen area’s death tool stood at eight, with 12 known overdoses in cases in which paramedics used narcan, an over-the-counter medication used to reverse or reduce opiod effects, to resuscitate victims, Perez said.

Perez is urging residents to administer narcan to fentanyl overdose victims to help resuscitate them.

Within Harlingen’s city limits, the outbreak has led to four deaths and six known overdoses, Alvear said.

On Tuesday morning, authorities believe the outbreak led to two deaths and an overdose that sent a man a hospital’s intensive care unit.

At about 3:25 a.m. Tuesday, authorities found two men passed on in a car outside a Motel 6 hotel.

While one died, the other is recovering, Moore said.

Later in the morning, Cameron County sheriff’s deputies responded to a death on Wood Street.