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Thursday, April 25, 2024

2 Gainesville Police Department officers hospitalized after exposure to suspected opioids during an arrest

GPD supervisors issued Narcan to the officers Sunday afternoon

Two Gainesville Police Department officers were given an opioid overdose treatment Sunday after being exposed to suspected narcotics during an arrest.

GPD responded to a call from a Wawa employee at 9:45 a.m. Sunday. The employee reported a suspect stealing, making threats and damaging store property at the Wawa located at 1614 W. University Ave. across the street from campus, according to a GPD release.

Once officers found the suspect on West University Avenue, they placed the 33-year-old male under arrest. Not long after being handcuffed, the man escaped and ran. After GPD officers caught hold of him, they found he possessed suspected opioids.

“He was found in possession of cannabis, a bag of white rock and a bag of white powder,” GPD Spokesperson Lisa Scott said.

Officers brought him to the Alachua County Jail and turned over evidence to the GPD Property and Evidence secured storage.

Almost two hours after the arrest, the assisting officer began experiencing negative health symptoms and radioed Emergency Medical Services from GPD Property and Evidence, according to the release.

GPD supervisors on scene administered GPD-issued Narcan — an opioid overdose treatment — to the officer. Narcan, a brand name for the generic medication, Naloxone, is an FDA-approved drug designed to help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. 

EMS responded and took the officer to the UF Health Shands Hospital.

A short time later, the arresting officer at the jail also reported feeling “odd, tingly, hot, tired and heavy,” Scott said. 

EMS quickly administered Narcan to the arresting officer before bringing the officer to Shands, according to the release.

The same day, the arrested man was taken from the jail to the hospital where he struck a nurse, according to the release. Officers filed a complaint, charged him and placed him under Florida’s Baker Act — a law providing people with emergency services and temporary restraint for mental health evaluation and treatment when they are deemed a threat to themselves or others. 

Both officers were released from the hospital Sunday and are recovering, Scott said.

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More than five years ago, former Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order to combat the state’s opioid crisis, authorizing pharmacists to dispense Naloxone to emergency responders for administration to people who showed signs of opioid overdose.

“Out of 258 police departments in the State of Florida, 27 police departments issue Narcan to their officers to be administered to their officers and citizens,” Sandra Duryea of the Ocala Police Department wrote in a study.

While opposers of Scott’s 2017 executive order feel allowing officers to dispense Narcan gives the user a “free pass” at being charged, enabling them to continue their abuse, others believe saving one person makes the program worth it, Duryea wrote.

Contact Lily Kino at Follow her on Twitter @lily_kino. 

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Lily Kino

Lily is a third-year journalism major with a concentration in environmental science covering criminal justice for The Alligator. Last semester, she served as the Santa Fe reporter. When she's not writing, you can find Lily on a nature walk, eating Domino's Pizza or spending time with her friends.

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