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“All of a sudden they’re vomiting, they’re seizing and they’re overdosing and they’re dying” : State attorney explains initiative to charge drug dealers with murder

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 4:57 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - The CDC estimates that more than 91,000 people died of an opioid overdose between Oct. 2019 and Oct. 2020.

Last week, we told you about how some of those deaths are happening in north central Florida in the first segment of our opioid epidemic series.

I sat down with Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken to learn just how rampant the opioid epidemic is in the community.

“Regardless of your thoughts on immigration this is a true problem for local police departments and this is across the country, not just Ocala, Florida, this is a problem. When you can throw a couple kilos of Fentanyl in a back pack and walk across the boarder this becomes a problem for us,” Chief Balken said.

Related story: “It’s alarming. There’s no other way to put it” : Police officials track drug dealers closely, treatment centers see an inordinate increase in patients asking for help

Now, we examine a proposed solution to stop this from happening.

In 2017, fentanyl - the drug most commonly know to cause overdose deaths - was added to state statute, where if it were included in a drug deal that caused the death of another person, they could be charged with murder.

And ever since then, efforts to find and charge these people has ramped up.

“When fentanyl was added in 2017 that was because we had so many new cases of fentanyl overdoses coming into the system and it’s so potent, and so addictive, and so dangerous and when it’s added to all these other drugs we start to see an up tick in overdose deaths,” State Attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, Bill Gladson said.

Currently, there are four people in Marion County charged with first degree murder for delivering drugs that resulted in the death of another person.

One of the most recent successful cases, was back in Nov. when 36-year-old David Gilchrist was indicted by a grand jury on one count of homicide, for selling the drugs that killed Piesanos employee Nick Rubino.

Related story: “You’re not going to keep killing our kids”: Mother reacts to grand jury indicting man that sold her son drugs, hope for residents struggling with addiction

“Drug dealers know when they’re dealing drugs that have fentanyl in them. It’s the people that are buying them that often don’t know how dangerous it really is. They might think they’re getting something that they’ve gotten in the past but it might have fentanyl in it and then all of a sudden they’re vomiting, they’re seizing and they’re overdosing and they’re dying,” Gladson added.

I asked Gladson, with fentanyl being the drug that it is, about the importance of getting the drugs out of the community and then also put a stop to the drug dealers bringing those drugs here.

“Our agencies do a good job of that, and if you were to talk to them and lookout the numbers of drugs they’ve seized and the fact that we’ve got those charges pending, I think we’re sending a clear message to the community that we’re not going to tolerate it,” he told me.

A clear message, that if you are dealing drugs here in Marion County, officials are determined to stop you.

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