On June 18, a news report was released by Huntsville, Alabama’s WHNT 19 News claiming a deputy had overdosed on fentanyl while searching a suspect. After searching a suspect’s pockets, the deputy allegedly caused a powder containing fentanyl to fly up into his face, where he inadvertently inhaled it, causing an overdose.
In the online report, Lincoln County officials released the alleged body cam footage from the incident via WHNT. Only one angle was released of the alleged overdose from the perspective of the officer. It’s dark, nondescript, and short.
Most alarmingly, no suspects were charged with drug possession, assaulting a law enforcement officer, or anything else.
No medical or toxicology reports or updates have been shared. Outside of the aforementioned article and video on WHNT’s website and, no other mentions of Deputy Trent Layman’s inadvertent run-in with fentanyl have been released online. Tennessee Harm Reduction called Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department in the days following the WHNT release, though received no other information about the incident.
Our goal is not to deny Mr. Layman’s victimhood — it’s to obtain more evidence of this alleged incident happening. We have no toxicology reports, medical opinions, or updates from Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department. This currently-unsubstantiated claim has unarguably negatively influenced public opinion even further against drugs. Thus far, the small-town Tennessee sheriff’s department has gone unchallenged on this issue.
We want additional evidence from Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department to support the legitimacy of this May 30 event.
Hysteria Around Fatal Fentanyl Contamination via Transdermal and Respiratory Exposure Has Galvanized America Against Evidence-Based Solutions for the Opioid Crisis
Reports of front-line law enforcement officers overdosing from touching or inhaling illicitly-manufactured fentanyl have proliferated across American local news circuits for several years now.
An American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology paper posits that opioid overdose from inadvertent exposure to airborne fentanyl isn’t scientifically feasible as part of a 2017 safety guide for first responders.
Spreading such reports attracts public support for the War on Drugs, often in the form of further criminalizing people found in possession of fentanyl.
Despite evidence-based suggestions from the Deug Policy Alliance, Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander (R) and Marsha Blackburn (R) co-introduced a draconian bill increasing criminal penalties against fentanyl and fentanyl analogs in mid-2019.
Two Republican U.S. Representatives from Ohio, Steve Chabot and Bob Latta, introduced FIGHT Fentanyl Act (H.R. 5771) in hopes of permanently banning fentanyl analogues on a federal level in Feb. 2020. “Fentanyl-like substances” were temporarily banned by the DEA in 2018, which is set to expire in 2021. This would make punishing fentanyl analogs much easier, more harshly criminalizing even those simply in “possession of fentanyl-like drugs.”
“We need to focus on evidence-based harm reduction policies and programs like syringe exchanges and supervised consumption sites,” says Sara Alese, Tennessee Recovery Alliance’s executive director.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department can be contacted at (931) 433-9821.