DA Unveils New Initiative To Track Drug Overdose Deaths

Photo: nchrc.org

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County’s District Attorney in collaboration with the U.S Attorney’s Office in Buffalo announced Friday they have created a new initiative to monitor drug overdose deaths in an effort to track down drug dealers and offer support to victims’ relative.

Pictured from left to right: AUSA Michael Adler, District Attorney Patrick Swanson and US Attorney J.P. Kennedy.

Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson said the Overdose Response Initiative is modeled after similar initiatives across the state and country.

It aims to coordinate local law enforcement and compile information from a multitude of sources to find the origin of the drugs that lead to overdoses.

“We then will work with our federal partners, including the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI, to put these cases together for federal prosecution,” DA Patrick Swanson said. “Until now, the partnership has been an informal one, however, today, we are formalizing that partnership and making public our efforts to combat overdose deaths.”

The partnership announcement followed a training session, organized by DA Swanson and presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Adler, the Opioid Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Over 40 investigators and top-level administrators from law enforcement agencies across Chautauqua County attended the training hosted by SUNY Fredonia and its new Campus Police Chief Brent Isaacson.

“The level of participation today is a testament to the commitment by our law enforcement leaders to fight this problem in our community, said Swanson.”

Defendants who sell drugs that lead to an overdose death can be charged federally and face up to life in prison if convicted. For example, in November 2018, in a first of its kind verdict, a federal jury convicted Dontrell Wise of supplying the drugs that led to November 2017 death of a young Cheektowaga, NY woman.

Wise was sentenced in March of this year to life in prison. The prosecution resulted from the combined efforts of the FBI, DEA, Buffalo Police, and Cheektowaga Police.

“Collaboration at that level is what is needed to bring these peddlers of poison to justice,” explained Swanson.

The initiative’s multistep, multi-agency approach, begins when an overdose occurs. Overdoses are being investigated like crime scenes.  Investigating officers will work with the newly appointed Chautauqua County Narcotics Prosecutor to collect facts concerning the time, place and identity of the deceased and whether or not there is evidence of value at the scene.

Another critical component is the cooperation of family and friends of the deceased.  Investigators will interview those closest to the victim in hopes of discovering the source of the fatal drugs. All of this information, along with a toxicology analysis, will be compiled and relayed to the District Attorney’s Office, which will then develop a prosecution strategy in conjunction with the US Attorney’s Office.

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