ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - An alleged drug dealer in St. Paul is now charged with third-degree murder related to an overdose death from August. Police say it’s a rare charge because the evidence is often difficult to connect, but they are working hard to crack down on dealers because the overdose crisis is out of control.
"If you have a drug problem, we don’t want to arrest you, we want to help you," said Commander Axel Henry of the St. Paul Police Narcotics Unit. "But if you’re providing drugs and distributing drugs and profiting the death and the misery of other people, we are going to be coming after you in that regard, that’s a huge issue."
The criminal complaint in this case is still under seal, but police say the overdose was the result of counterfeit opioid pills made with Fentanyl. Text messages connected the overdose victim to the dealer, who was arrested Wednesday.
Police say this one case is just the tip of the iceberg. Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in St. Paul.
In 2019, there were 46 fatal overdoses in St. Paul. It jumped to 82 in 2020. So far in 2021, with three weeks to go, the number is already at 112.
Commander Henry says the problem is they are finding Fentanyl in everything, including marijuana. It can be fatal is tiny amounts and is hard to predict just how much has been used in any particular street drug.
"I can tell you that if I knew anybody that was using any drugs right now, I would be cautioning them to please, please consider not using those drugs, getting some help, figuring out what you have to do, but it is way too risky right now to be using narcotic," said Commander Henry.
He says part of the problem is Narcan, used in overdoses, which gives users a false sense of security to take bigger risks. But he says it would probably be safer to play Russian roulette than take any drug bought off the street. "Your average revolver, it’s a 17% chance you’re going to fire down on a round with a bullet. I’d actually argue your chances are worse if you’re out buying drugs on the street right now. That you’re going to encounter Fentanyl and if you get the wrong amount and the wrong dose, you’re not going to get a second chance."
Criminal complaint on fatal overdose against Lester Lashawn Patton unsealed
On Thursday, the criminal complaint against the suspected drug dealer, 27-year-old Lester Lashawn Patton was unsealed. In it, police accuse Patton of selling pills laced with Fentanyl to a 23-year-old man in August.
Police responded shortly before 10 p.m. on August 6 to a home on Cayuga Street for the overdose. Medics attempted to revive the victim, but he was ultimately pronounced dead in his upstairs bedroom. In the room, officers found two blue pills stamped "M 30" inside a cigarette pack on the floor near the bed.
Family members told police they were sure the victim had overdosed, saying the victim had struggled with addiction, using Percocet and Fentanyl in the past. Before passing away, he had told his family he was going to his room to take a nap at 5 p.m. His nieces checked on him in the ensuing hours but noticed something was wrong around 9:50 p.m. and called 911.
Reviewing Facebook messages, officers say they found the victim had spoken with Patton, trying to buy Percocet pills. Ultimately, Patton met with the victim and paid $20 via Cash App shortly before 2 a.m. on August 6.
Hours later, as emergency crews were trying to revive the victim, Patton sent a follow-up message: "That s--t was some gas huh." Hours later, aware of the overdose, police say Patton sent the victim another message: "Bro please tell me this ain't true. I told u to slow down on those bro. You just got a job and everything was goin so good."
Police say a family member had confronted Patton about the overdose but Patton denied selling the victim anything besides weed.
Police say Patton then messaged another person, saying: "A friend of mine/customer o,ded and died like 3 hrs ago idk if it was the 30s but u get what I'm saying."
The "M 30" pills found in the victim's bedroom ultimately tested positive for Fentanyl. The medical examiner also determined the victim had died from Fentanyl toxicity.
Patton is charged with third-degree murder.