9 deaths in mass overdose incident in Austin involving dozens: ‘One of the worst we’ve seen’

Austin law enforcement says that a mass overdose incident is to blame for nine deaths and nearly 80 suspected overdoses over the last week in downtown Austin.

The Austin Police Department said that officers and the Austin-Travis County EMS began to respond to numerous reports of overdoses on Monday. The wave subsided after several days but ended up taking the lives of nine people and leading to dozens overdosing.

Law enforcement officials and non-profit organizations tried to battle the mass overdose incident by distributing Narcan and informing at-risk residents of the bad batch of drugs.

Emergency responders said they attended to 36 suspected overdoses on Monday and 27 on Tuesday, with 7 more on Wednesday.

Christa Stedman, the public information officer for Austin-Travis County EMS, said in a media briefing that the distribution of Narcan had unquestionably saved lives.

“We’ve seen in just a couple of days the numbers dramatically decline, that’s a great thing, and I think that speaks to the incredible work that both our community help paramedic team and our partners have done in essentially flooding the city with Narcan.”

Lily Hughs of the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance said that her team of volunteers had been out in the community trying to get the word out about the bad batch of drugs so that users could avoid the threat.

Hughes said they also offered training for drug users who wanted to learn how to use Narcan.

“We took extra time to do training and talk them through, and made sure every single person we talked to knew what was going on,” she said.

EMS said they had handed out about 400 doses of Narcan while the THRA said they had handed out about 100 doses.

Austin police later said that they had detained two persons of interest related to the overdoses. One of those suspects was identified as 55-year-old Johnny Lee Wright, who was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

A second person who was unidentified was arrested on a charge of possession of a controlled substance.

Investigators said they identified Wright and another person through the use of high resolution cameras that recorded Wright allegedly handing off narcotics to users after having received them from the unidentified suspect.

Police said that Wright and the second person were “known by officers who regularly worked the downtown area as narcotics dealers.”

Here’s a news report about the incident:

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