Traffic stop almost turns deadly for ELO officer

Special to the Journal/ELPD
A white powdery substance that East Liverpool police were told was the opioid fentanyl can be seen on the floor and seat covers of this vehicle stopped on Friday night in the city. A city police officer had to be treated with a drug antidote after coming in contact with the substance on his clothing.

Special to the Journal/ELPD A white powdery substance that East Liverpool police were told was the opioid fentanyl can be seen on the floor and seat covers of this vehicle stopped on Friday night in the city. A city police officer had to be treated with a drug antidote after coming in contact with the substance on his clothing.

EAST LIVERPOOL — An hour after city Patrolman Chris Green responded Friday night with other officers to a traffic stop on Lisbon Street, he was being treated for a drug overdose.

Green responded and assisted in searching the vehicle being driven by Justin Buckel (see accompanying story), where suspected drugs were scattered about inside.

“When I got to the scene, he was covered in it. I patted him down, and that was the only time I didn’t wear gloves. Otherwise, I followed protocol,” Green said.

Within the past year, the department began providing special protective gear in the cruisers containing masks, gloves and other items for officers’ use due to the potentially lethal effects of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and carfentanyl, used as an animal sedative and said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

About an hour after officers had returned to the police station with the suspects and the seized evidence, Buckel indicated he was not feeling well, and an ambulance was called.

“That saved my life,” Green said.

Officers were standing about, just talking when someone pointed out to Green he had something — the suspected drug residue — on his shirt, and he swiped at it with his hand, wiping it off.

Within a few minutes, Green said, “I started talking weird. I slowly felt my body shutting down. I could hear them talking, but I couldn’t respond. I was in total shock. ‘No way I’m overdosing,’ I thought.”

Patrolman Rob Smith grabbed Green as he began to fall to the floor, and the ambulance crew already there for Buckel began working on Green, quickly administering him a dose of the opioid antidote Narcan.

“Apparently, I was in denial. I denied the Narcan,” Green said, until other officers insisted and eventually, at the hospital, three additional doses had to be given to completely revive him.

“God was surely looking over me,” Green said.

Chief John Lane agreed, saying his officer is lucky the effects hit him before he left the station that night.

“If he would have been alone, he would have been dead. That’s how dangerous this stuff is. What if he went home and got it on his family members?”

Lane pointed out the car had child safety seats in the rear seat and the mother had come to the station in an attempt to retrieve it after the traffic stop, but he said efforts will be made to keep the vehicle from being used to transport children again.

“We’re going to try and seize that car and destroy it. How do we neutralize it? It only takes one granule (of carfentanyl) to kill an adult. These people have no regard for anybody, not themselves, not the police, not their kids,” Lane said. “Their priority is not about anything but that next high.”

Green was treated and released Friday, and when contacted Saturday said he was still feeling the effects of the substance, saying his head “feels like it’s in a vice grip, my heart feels like I got kicked in the chest and my stomach feels like I have a case of the flu. I can’t wrap my head around (why anyone would take the drugs).”

He said the passenger in Buckel’s vehicle also ended up taken to the hospital, which was not confirmed Saturday, and said the clothes he was wearing Friday night had to be thrown away.

Green said Saturday afternoon he expects felonious assault charges could be charged in relation to the exposure from the suspected drugs.

He said these powerful drugs “are not only killing the people willing to shove it into their own veins, now they’re killing people like me and my family.”

Service-Safety Director Brian Allen said Saturday evening, “We take the safety of our officers very seriously and will do our best to protect them. I was very impressed with the quick response of our other officers and emergency personnel.”

Allen added, “It’s time our state gets tough on those who peddle this poison and creates laws to protect those who protect us.”

jgilbert@mojonews.com

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