Sunnyvale officer hospitalized after possible fentanyl exposure

The Mercury News 


SUNNYVALE — A Sunnyvale police officer was in stable condition after he was overcome by possible fentanyl exposure while handling a suspect’s drug package Wednesday night, authorities said.

The accidental drug release prompted an overnight evacuation of Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety headquarters. Six other officers were taken to the hospital for a precautionary medical evaluation and released.

The episode began around 10:35 p.m. Wednesday when Sunnyvale officers arrested a man seen urinating in public in front of a See’s Candies store in the 1200 block of West El Camino Real, police said. During the arrest, the officers checked on the man’s criminal record and discovered he was wanted on two unspecified arrest warrants in San Luis Obispo County.

Officers also confiscated from him “a small package containing an unknown substance that was suspected to be narcotics.” Capt. Jim Choi later told this news organization that the suspect told them it was the powerful opioid drug fentanyl.

Back at the police station, an officer was processing the package as evidence when the drug released into the air, and the officer immediately experienced “severe respiratory distress,” Choi said.

“The reaction was pretty quick,” he said.

The officer was rushed to the hospital, and the building was cleared out while a hazardous materials team “safely secured the substance and decontaminated the affected areas,” police said. The drug release was contained to the building. Choi said the substance is currently being tested to confirm its composition.

Police encounters with fentanyl have become commonplace across the country as the drug has exploded in popularity, and abuse. It’s why many police agencies have taken to routinely carrying Narcan, a nasal spray antidote for fentanyl overdoses and heavy exposure.

In 2017, Campbell police reported that an officer used the nasal spray to revive an unresponsive man found next to multiple syringes, suggesting a heroin overdose. Last June, Narcan was credited with saving the life a deputy who was exposed to a potentially lethal amount of fentanyl during a police raid.

Choi said Sunnyvale DPS is in the process of obtaining Narcan for officers to carry in the field.

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