Smuggled drugs blamed for five overdoses, one fatal, at Pasco jail

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said jail deputies used Narcan to treat the overdoses, but the opioid antidote couldn’t save the latest victim.
Published February 1
Updated February 1

LAND O' LAKES — A 28-year-old inmate at the Pasco County jail died Friday morning from a suspected drug overdose — one of five inmate overdoses that took place during the past week that deputies blame on methamphetamines laced with potentially deadly opioids.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a Friday news conference that it appears the drugs were smuggled into the jail, perhaps through the body cavity of one person who has already admitted responsibility.

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In all five cases, the sheriff said jail staff administered the antidote Narcan, also called naloxone, a drug that treats overdoses by quickly removing opioids from brain receptors.

The inmate who died was identified as Colton McKinley of Port Richey. He was found unresponsive in his cell at 7:45 a.m., the agency said. Jail staff administered four doses of Narcan in an attempt to save his life, the sheriff said. McKinley was arrested on Dec. 7 on charges of scheming to defraud, uttering forged notes and possession of more than 10 forged bills.

It will take up to six weeks for the Pasco-Pinellas Medical Examiner’s Office to determine a cause of death. The identities and medical conditions of the other inmates were not disclosed.

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The first overdose took place on Jan. 24. Deputies launched a search of the jail at 20101 Central Blvd., about a mile off U.S. 41. Deputies and police dogs joined the search, Nocco said, all of whom faced health risks from being exposed to even a small amount of opioids. The same was true of the 1,659 inmates being held at the jail.

The search revealed that the drug problem was isolated to a small portion of the facility.

The drugs believed responsible for the overdoses are used in tiny amounts — “specks,” Nocco said — making smuggling difficult to detect. He declined to discuss how the drugs might have made their way into the jail, but said one possibility is they’re being smuggled using someone’s body cavity.

“Drugs are not rampant at the jail,” he said. Federal authorities now are investigating the overdoses.

Most of the five inmates who received Narcan each got two doses, Nocco said.

Like a growing number of law enforcement officers in Florida and nationwide, officers at the Pasco County jail are trained and equipped to administer Narcan: They snap on latex gloves, assemble a two-piece applicator to spray the drug into overdose victim’s nostrils in an attempt to revive someone who has suffered an overdose.

“This is a societal problem,” Nocco said. “This is something that happens in jails and prisons anywhere across the country.

“We are dealing with opioids. We’re dealing with addiction in people who will do anything to get these drugs.”