Cop still recuperating, suspects bound over

Morning Journal/Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert East Liverpool police Chief John Lane has sent a letter to the owner of this house at 715 Avondale St., ordering him to evict its tenants due to alleged drug-related activity.

EAST LIVERPOOL — Although still feeling the effects of an unintended drug overdose, city Patrolman Chris Green will be back on the job today.

Green ended up in the emergency room Friday night, the unwitting victim of what officials believe may have been a powerful opioid absorbed into the officer’s skin when he absently wiped something from his clothing following a traffic stop where suspected narcotics were ground into the carpeting and seat covers.

After he and other officers completed processing the traffic stop and arresting two suspects, Green was made aware of the substance on his clothing and swiped at it with his hand.

Soon thereafter, Green became somewhat incoherent and fell to the floor at the police station, where paramedics who had been called for one of the suspects instead administered a dose of Narcan to the officer.

Transported to the nearby hospital, Green ended up receiving three additional doses of the opioid antidote before he came around.

Chief John Lane said Monday that Green still didn’t feel completely well but he is back on the schedule for today.

Green also joined other officers at Monday night’s city council meeting where their new contract was on the agenda.

In East Liverpool Municipal Court Monday morning, the two suspects arrested for tampering with evidence as a result of Friday night’s traffic stop appeared by video for arraignment before Judge Melissa Byers Emmerling.

Justin M. Buckel, 25, 715 Avondale Street, and Cortez D. Collins, 24, Cleveland, were bound over to County Common Pleas Court on the third-degree felony charges, with cash/surety bond set at $100,000 for each.

Police have indicated felonious assault charges are expected to be filed in conjunction with the case.

The substance with which Green and other officers came into contact during the traffic stop has not yet been definitively identified, although it is suspected to have been fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, or perhaps even carfentanyl, a derivative of fentanyl which is much more potent and deadly.

Lane said the substances found in the vehicle will undergo testing but he has no idea when those results will be returned, noting he still has not received results from tests done on a traffic accident involving an overdosed couple and a little boy last year which made international headlines.

The car stopped by police on Friday was being driven by Buckel and is registered to Susan Pritt, also of the Avondale address, according to police, and Lane said Monday she has contacted him several times since Friday in an attempt to have the car returned.

He, however, is speaking to prosecutors and other officials about how to legally seize the vehicle and have it destroyed, due to the suspected narcotics possibly still inside.

Lane has voiced his concern about returning the car for Pritt to use as transportation for her children, noting the child restraint seats in the back when it was stopped.

Meanwhile, a letter was sent by Lane May 10 to Aaron Stevens, owner of the Avondale Street home where Pritt and Buckel live, ordering him to initiate eviction proceedings against them due to a search warrant executed at the house the previous day by the county drug task force and city police during which marijuana and a large sum of cash were seized.

During that episode, Buckel reportedly tried to flee from police, who later also discovered 50 to 100 needles, heroin and suboxone outside the house.

The city housing inspector said Monday he will also be revoking Stevens’ rental license for the property, once the eviction has taken place.

Service-Safety Director Brian Allen also asked city council Monday night to consider new legislation that would make it illegal for anyone to go back inside a home where drugs have been found until it is thoroughly cleaned.

“I value every employee in this city and, ultimately, their jobs fall on me. These are our safety forces, and it’s our job to protect them,” Allen told council.

He said often officers end up going back into the same houses, where children also have to return following drug raids.

Allen said the city of Salem recently implemented new legislation pertaining to homes in which meth labs had been discovered, and said the same needs done when opioids are found inside. He has requested a copy of Salem’s legislation to review.

Councilman John Mercer suggested the city health department might be able to initiate immediate action in such cases, rather than waiting for the eviction and license revocation process, which Allen said it what is being done in Salem.

As with the infamous photograph of the couple overdosed in the car with the child last year which went viral, Allen and Lane said the incident involving Green has also gained national attention since this newspaper first published the story Sunday morning.

News agencies from around the country have been seeking interviews, and the story also gained the attention of the state’s attorney general, who Allen said called and offered assistance.



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