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5 people arrested after surge of suspected drug overdoses in Austin: Police

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(AUSTIN) — Five people have been arrested after dozens of people overdosed in Austin last week, leading to nine suspected deaths.

The Austin Police Department said Marcellus Barron, 30; Denise Horton, 47; Gary Lewis, 50; Ronnie Mims, 45; and Kanady Rimjo, 32, were arrested and charged with possession or delivery of a controlled substance, according to local ABC News affiliate KVUE.

Police said they located the suspects by investigating the source of the narcotics used in the recent overdoses, KVUE reported. The drugs included marijuana and crack cocaine laced with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most cases involving fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the U.S. have been associated with illegally made fentanyl, the CDC said. It is often sold through illegal drug markets and mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, to increase its effects.

Starting around 9 a.m. ET on Monday, April 29, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services (ATCEMS) said it received a surge of calls concentrated in the downtown area.

ATCEMS said it usually receives two or three overdose calls per day, but the number of calls equated to a 1,000% increase in call volume, Dr. Heidi Abraham, deputy medical director for ATCEMS, said last week during a press conference.

As of Monday, there were 79 reported overdoses and ATCEMS distributed 438 Narcan rescue kits. Narcan is given as a nasal spray and the active ingredient in the medication — naloxone — can quickly restore breathing if someone is experiencing an opioid overdose.

Police say a sixth person, 55-year-old Johnny Lee Wright, was arrested after surveillance video captured him delivering narcotics to Austin residents, KVUE reported. According to the APD, Wright has several previous felony convictions, including some related to narcotics.

APD did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

A record number of Americans have died from drug overdoses. In 2022, there were nearly 108,000 drug overdose deaths, according to provisional data from the CDC.

In Texas, drug poisoning-related deaths for 2022 sit at 15.4 per 100,000 people, which is the highest rate since at least 2011, according to provisional data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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