Eleven NJ officers treated for fentanyl after reportedly being exposed while executing search warrant

Eleven New Jersey police officers were exposed to dangerous levels of fentanyl this week while executing two search warrants, including one on an apartment in the city of Collingswood.

“Following the execution of the search warrants, 11 officers who were at the scene [in Collingswood] were treated by Virtua Paramedics and the Collingswood Fire Department, and the officers were then transported to the Cooper University Medical Center for exposure to fentanyl,” the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO) reported in a press briefing released Friday.

“Hazardous Materials Teams from the Cherry Hill Fire Department, the Camden Fire Department and Camden County, responded to the scene to assess and address the situation to ensure that the apartment complex was free of any hazards and safe for the public. The 11 officers who received treatment for exposure to fentanyl have been released from the hospital,” the CCPO added.

According to the CCPO, the apartment in Collingswood was used by suspect Ali Coles, 49, “to package fentanyl and cocaine to be further distributed.”

“Coles was actively attempting to destroy evidence at the time when he was encountered by police,” the prosecutor’s office reported.

Coles was one of five suspects arrested as per a two-month long investigation that reached its apex this past week.

The authorities also executed a search warrant on a home in Sicklerville.

In both locations, the authorities found a combined “1,000 bags of fentanyl,” “over 5 ounces of loose fentanyl,” “approximately $40,000 U.S. Currency,” “one semi-automatic handgun,” “various drug paraphernalia,” and “four vehicles.”

Dovetailing back to the Collingswood location where the fentanyl poisoning occurred, several eyewitnesses who live in the same apartment building told local news outlet NJPEN that they were disturbed by what happened.

“This came from out of nowhere, and that’s a scary thing, too,” witness Reggie Johnson, who has kids, said about the presence of so much fentanyl.

According to NJPEN, Johnson “had just put dinner in the oven, when he heard what he described sounded like a door being broken down.”

“His family evacuated the apartment, and wasn’t allowed to return inside for several hours. While he was outside, the activity continued: Johnson said he saw some four to six officers being evacuated,” the outlet reported Thursday.

“He claimed that officers told him those being transported from the scene had been exposed to fentanyl, and that the apartment in question contained ‘a lot of drugs.’ By 8 p.m., first responders donning respirators and clean suits were being guided to an area of the apartment complex near Harrison Avenue,” the outlet added.

Fellow apartment building resident Angel Camlin also witnessed what happened.

“[S]he and her boyfriend were carrying groceries to their apartment around 7:30 p.m. Thursday when a police officer ordered them to stop. For about half an hour, Camlin said they waited by the mailboxes at the apartment, and watched as police began blocking off the roadways leading into the complex,” according to NJPEN.

“There were just tons and tons of cops everywhere. They just kept telling us to stay back, and no one would tell us what was going on,” Camlin told the outlet.

Like Johnson, Camlin was also highly disturbed by what happened, especially given the strict requirements that must be met by aspiring residents. When she herself moved in, she had to undergo a background check and an income check. And since then, rent has only gone up.

“They charge us per pet now, every month, plus a fee to park. If I’m paying high rent, I expect to be safe,” she told the outlet.

But it’s hard to feel safe around fentanyl, an extremely dangerous narcotic that’s lethal in doses as little as two milligrams, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Of the 107,000+ Americans who died of drug overdoses and poisonings in 2021, 67 percent of their deaths “involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.”

“Some of these deaths were attributed to fentanyl mixed with other illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, with many users unaware they were actually taking fentanyl,” the agency notes.

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