Florida police have arrested a man suspecting of supplying drugs to five US Military Academy cadets who overdosed on what’s believed to be fentanyl-laced cocaine.
Axel Giovany Casseus, was arrested on cocaine trafficking charges on Friday, and was believed to have supplied the drugs used by the trainees at America’s elite West Point military academy while they visited Florida for spring break.
Officials with Broward County’s drug task force arrested the 21-year-old after he allegedly sold $1,000 of cocaine to an undercover detective.
Officers in Wilton Manors, Florida, were called on Thursday evening to a rental home, where they found four of the cadets, all men, in cardiac arrest on the front lawn, as well as a fifth on the property.
All of the men were given Narcan, an emergency medicine which can restore breathing after overdoses caused by fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
Two of the men are in critical condition and intubated in intensive care, while another three have been released from the hospital. One of the cadets is a football player for the Army college team.
West Point said it was aware of the incident and is investigating the situation.
The identities of the cadets have not been released publicly.
“This is extremely alarming to us, here we are in the first week of spring break and we have something like this taking place,” Steve Gollan, battalion chief of Ft LAuderdale Fire Rescue, told WTVJ on Friday. “Obviously if there’s a bad batch, it’s normally not isolated just to one buyer, it normally goes to everyone that purchased that same substance from whoever they got it from. It brings great concern that there could be other ODs over the next couple of days.”
Fentanyl is playing an increasing role in America’s epidemic of opioid deaths.
Between April 2020 and April 2021, more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses for the first time in any 12-month period, with more than 64,000 of those deaths linked to fentanyl, The Washington Post reports.
There are now more overdoses from fentanyl alone than from all drugs in the US in 2016.
The Commission on Combatting Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, a bipartisan working group in Congress, has recommended the US focus more on opioid treatment and other health than War on Drugs-style police crackdowns.
“U.S. and Mexican efforts can disrupt the flow of synthetic opioids across U.S. borders, but real progress can come only by pairing illicit synthetic opioid supply disruption with decreasing the domestic U.S. demand for these drugs,” a report from the commission found earlier this month.