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Police use new technology to identify victims, drugs after weekend overdoses in South St. Paul

Police search for evidence in a South St. Paul home near Bircher and Motor Avenues after six people were found unconscious due to apparent opioid use Saturday night into Sunday morning. Photo: KSTP
Police search for evidence in a South St. Paul home near Bircher and Motor Avenues after six people were found unconscious due to apparent opioid use Saturday night into Sunday morning.

June 05, 2019 12:52 PM

Only one of the six people who overdosed on illegal drugs in South Saint Paul over the weekend remains in the hospital.

The other five were treated and released. Police Chief William Messerich described them as, "all males between the ages of 25 and 28 years old."

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One of them returned to the home on the 200 block of Bircher Avenue where the house party was held Saturday night. The unidentified man had a few choice words and gestures when asked about the incident, before going inside Monday.

When reached by telephone, others declined offers to talk.

One witness let the cellphone video he recorded speak for him. It captured about five minutes of the chaotic scene around 10:30 p.m. 

RELATED: Multiple accidental overdoses at South St. Paul house gathering under investigation

Emergency lights flooded the block, along with fire trucks, ambulances and police cars. Crews quickly took action after a caller reported multiple accidental overdoses. One man could be seen lying on the lawn. First responders administered Narcan to reverse the opioid affect. Others were treated and awake as they entered an ambulance bound for the hospital. One man couldn't walk on his own and needed an official escort. Paramedics rolled in another stretch for a patient.

Chief Messerich called the situation, "overwhelming, there certainly were a lot of risks involved."

There were six lives on the line after the group ingested what the chief would only call an "unknown substance." A source said the drug was actually two in one, cocaine laced with fentanyl, which can be fatal in the smallest of doses or exposure.

Neighbors who didn't want to be identified huddled together on the sidewalk to observe the ordeal, and one said what everyone thought, "I just hope this is an isolated incident and the neighborhood doesn't have to worry about the future."

South Saint Paul Police along with the Dakota County Drug Task Force were leading the investigation into the source of the drug. That includes checking any possible connection to other overdoses in the area.

For that, the department is using a method new to force in an effort to get ahead of the opiate OD problem. It's nickname is OD Map, which stands for Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program. Officers enter in real-time information about the location of the OD, the demographic of at-risk users, the drug suspected, if a new substance appeared and if Narcan was used to revive the users.

The database detects any clusters of concern, and that information can be used by law enforcement for faster responses and to raise awareness in the community. It's victim centered, not criminal.

"If there's a link in cases, it would help solve by getting one piece of information or tie it to another piece and increase the solvability," said Chief Messerich.

As of Monday night, no one has been arrested or charged. Investigators said it could be very likely the group thought they were doing one drug, not knowing they were ingesting another as well. Dealers have been known to intentionally mix fentanyl with some other drugs to make it more potent and get users hooked faster.

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Credits

Beth McDonough

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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