Clallam County inmate overdoses while in jail

Man allegedly obtains opioid from cell mate

PORT ANGELES — A Clallam County jail inmate’s nonfatal fentanyl overdose is being investigated by the county sheriff’s office, which has identified another inmate who allegedly supplied him with the powerful synthetic opioid.

The 28-year-old male victim, whose identity has not been released, had a seizure in the jail at about 3 p.m. Saturday, Chief Corrections Deputy Wendy Peterson said Monday.

Paramedics took him to an aid car and administered the overdose-reversal drug Narcan to determine he was not having an epileptic or other non-drug-related seizure, Peterson said.

“All the drug tests were negative for opiates, but he obviously was overdosing on something,” she said.

A drug test administered by Olympic Medical Center, where the man was treated and released, determined he had taken fentanyl, Peterson said.

The man, incarcerated during the last few months, remained in the jail Monday on restricted-movement status to make sure he has no further reactions, Peterson said.

She said all inmates were searched after the Saturday incident. No additional drugs were found, and no drug tests returned positive results.

The overdose victim and the man suspected of supplying him with fentanyl were living in a 10-person cell that was searched without turning up more drugs, Peterson said.

A state Department of Corrections K9 unit also sniffed the jail for drugs and didn’t find any, Peterson said.

Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King said the sheriff’s office has recommended charges to the prosecuting attorney’s office of possession and delivery of a controlled substance and introduction of contraband into the jail to be filed against the inmate who allegedly supplied the drug.

King said the suspect was identified through interviews with other inmates and by reviewing jail surveillance videos.

King said it appeared the overdose victim snorted the fentanyl after putting it on top of a chirping device inmates use for texting.

“We can look at the device, it appears to have a white, fine powdery substance on the device, and we recovered packaging,” he said.

“We’re going to test that device for fentanyl.”

Peterson said the inmate was in the jail’s general housing unit when corrections deputies in the booking area were looking at a camera monitor and saw him having a seizure.

“Other inmates were around him, and it didn’t look normal to them, and they responded to what was going on,” she said.

The man’s cell mate said he snorted the drug and almost immediately had spasms.

Peterson said she could only speculate but had a good idea how the drug got into the jail.

“I know how inmates pack drugs into our facility and it goes undetected,” she said.

Inmates are strip-searched before they are issued jail clothing.

“You can only imagine where it was packed away,” she said.

The suspect was taken to Olympic Medical Center and body-scanned for drug packages. None were found.

Peterson said the jail has been too small for body scanners until recently.

A newer version that will fit costs about $100,000 and will be part of her 2022 budget request, she said.

“It’s a significant price to pay, but it would definitely eliminate incidents like this from happening,” Peterson said.

She has worked at the jail for 36 years and cannot recall someone overdosing while already incarcerated.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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