Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported that the four men arrested were believed to be connected to 15 overdoses in Washington County. The men are currently accused of being in connection to one of the overdoses, which was fatal. The other 14 are still under investigation.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A spike in fentanyl overdoses in Washington County over the past week has multiple agencies on high alert. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office says at least four suspects believed to be related to one of the overdose deaths, are now behind bars.
Just in the past couple days, Washington County authorities have responded to 15 overdoses, and they believe fentanyl is likely connected to all of them. At least four people died as a result.
“It’s a large number of overdoses, usually we don’t see that many at a one time, especially with that number of fatalities,” said Det. Anel Ceric with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Spread across Washington County, the overdoses pulled resources from the sheriff’s office, and the Beaverton and Hillsboro police departments. WCSO says six overdoses and one fatality were in Beaverton, one overdose fatality was in Hillsboro, and five overdoses and two fatalities were in unincorporated Washington County.
As for the cause of this sudden jump in severity, they believe a more potent, dangerous batch of fentanyl is circulating on the streets.
“It appears this batch is stronger than previous batches and that’s probably why we’re experiencing all these overdoses,” said Ceric.
While investigating one of the overdose deaths, the Westside Interagency Narcotics team, made up of members of many local agencies, found a number of drug dealers who were likely connected, eventually serving a warrant at a Portland Hotel with the help of PPB and the feds.
They recovered more than six pounds of powdered fentanyl, more than four pounds of rainbow fentanyl pills, meth, and more than $11,000.
As a result of the bust, four suspects from Honduras were arrested, identified as Manuel Velazquez-Estrjo, Jorge Rivera-Nunez, Dennis Palma-Hurbina, and Gretsel Ramos-Balladares.
“All four were taken to the Multnomah County Jail and are pending federal indictment for those drugs,” said Ceric.
WCSO says while this major bust is a step in the right direction, it’ll take much more to tackle the drug crisis.
“Every time we have these busts, it drives down the overdoses and calls for service just for a little bit but there’s always a stream of more coming in so our WIN team is always going to be looking for more,” said Ceric.
As for the four suspects arrested on Wednesday, the sheriff’s office wasn’t able to say which overdose death they’re connected to, but says all of the cases are currently under investigation.