An alleged drug dealer threw a handful of potentially deadly fentanyl powder at a police officer during a drug enforcement operation in New York City, prosecutors say.
According to a Thursday statement from the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, the incident happened while members of the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force were executing a search warrant for an apartment across the street from a public elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Inside the apartment, officers reportedly found "a large quantity of suspected heroin and fentanyl packaged into nearly 20,000 individual dose glassine envelopes, as well as additional quantities of narcotics in loose powder form."
But before they could secure the area, the statement says, alleged narcotics trafficker Christian Rojas threw loose fentanyl at an officer's head. After the drug hit the officer, the statement adds, it became airborne and began to take effect on him and other members of the strike force:
The officer exhibited fentanyl-related symptoms, including nausea and shortness of breath and was treated by emergency responders. A second officer who was immediately behind this officer also experienced nausea and shortness of breath, and momentarily lost consciousness while being transported to a hospital via ambulance.
The statement says that four officers experienced fentanyl-related symptoms as a result of the operation.
Fentanyl is an incredibly potent synthetic opioid that can be deadly even in very small doses. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, "as little as two milligrams is a lethal dosage in most people." Because it is comparatively cheap, it is often used to cut other illegal drugs, leading to overdoses.
In addition to drug charges from the bust, Rojas has also been charged with two counts of attempted assault on a police officer, two counts of second-degree assault and one count of second-degree reckless endangerment. Six other defendants face drug charges associated with the operation.
The New York Post reports that Rojas is currently being held on a $150,000 bond.
The New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is made up of officers and agents from the New York City Police Department and several state and federal agencies.