Pittsburgh ICE raid hospitalizes 18 officers due to fentanyl exposure

By Ray Downs  |  Aug. 9, 2017 at 11:11 PM
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Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Eighteen Pittsburgh police officers were hospitalized after they were possibly exposed to fentanyl during a raid led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Wednesday morning, authorities said.

ICE and Homeland Security officers were conducting raids throughout Pittsburgh with the help of the Pittsburgh Police Department SWAT team. During one of the raids, a table holding suspected fentanyl was overturned and became airborne, causing the SWAT officers to become exposed to the drug.

"In the kitchen of the residence, law enforcement located a plate with a significant quantity of white power on it and a number of packaged stamp bags and empty stamp bags. Officers observed stamp bags bearing both the 'Ferrari' stamp and the 'Louis Vuitton' stamp," the Department of Justice said in a press release.

The substance in the air caused the SWAT officers to feel dizzy, nauseous and have a burning sensation in their throats. Fenyanyl is described by the National Institute of Health as a "powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent."

"Fortunately, the individuals that were involved this morning were able to get out of the situation right away," said Dr. Michael Turteurro, the chief of emergency services at UPMC Mercy Hospital, according to KDKA.

The officers were released from the hospital without serious injury.

The raid led to four arrests and the suspects were charged with "conspiring to possess with intent to distribute a quantity of fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance."

"Fentanyl exposure is an all too real risk to law enforcement as we learned," said Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song.

This isn't the first time a SWAT team became sick from exposure to fentanyl during a raid.

Last September, SWAT officers in Connecticut threw a stun grenade into a home during a raid, causing fentanyl and heroin powder to be spread throughout the air. Eleven officers were hospitalized.

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