String of overdoses in Northfield linked to carfentanil

A Northfield man is in custody, arrested on charges connected to a string of serious overdoses last weekend. Three people were treated at an area hospital, after ingesting what they thought was oxycodone. Instead, the pills were laced with cocaine and carfentanil – a potentially deadly synthetic opioid used as an animal tranquilizer. 

“All three of these potentially could have been overdose deaths, except of the great work of Northfield Hospital, EMS providers and our officers when they responded,” said Monte Nelson, Chief of the Northfield Police Department. 

Nelson said first responders noticed something unusual about the overdoses on Feb. 23 and Feb. 25, because they seemed more serious than an overdose caused by oxycodone alone. One of the victims had to receive four doses of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, before they could be revived. 

“And everyone agreed there had to be something else in these pills and because of the small amount, the potential for someone dying was extremely high,” Nelson said.

The concern led Nelson's department to ask the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Forensic Science Lab to analyze the pills, even though no criminal case had been started.

The results confirmed the suspicion of the department that the pills contained carfentanil. 

Nelson said tips led investigators to Joshua Tarka, 22, of Northfield. According to a criminal complaint, “Tarka admitted he knows the pills stamped with “K9” on them are the deadly pills."

Tarka told police he knew that three people had overdosed as a result of the pills, and that he and the alleged supplier also almost died from taking them. 

According to the criminal complaint, Tarka told police he obtained the drugs from a supplier in Mankato. Investigators with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force took a Mankato man, 20 year-old Joshua Chlan, into custody on Thursday. They executed a search warrant as they looked into a possible connection between Chlan and Tarka.

The task force found pills they suspect to be laced with carfentanil inside the home, but test results would have to confirm those suspicions. 

While Tarka told investigators he disposed of the “K9” pills, investigators can't be too sure, so they're asking for the public's help.

“Bring them to us, put them in our ‘take it the to the box,’ but don't handle them, don't ingest, because we don't know and there's really no way to know how many of the pills could be out there,” Nelson said. 

Nelson said his department has partnered with the Steve Rummler Foundation, to encourage those who witness an overdose to “not run, call 911.” Under Steve’s Law, passed in 2015, those who cooperate with law enforcement following an overdose will not face prosecution. 

“Stay on scene, give CPR if necessary, because if someone doesn't call us, that's when we have those tragedies where someone loses their life,” he said.