Ohio authorities have seized a multimillion-dollar haul of fentanyl so large they're calling it a "weapon of mass destruction."
Almost 45 pounds of suspected fentanyl, three pounds of suspected methamphetamine, a pound of suspected heroin, three firearms and over $30,000 in cash were seized in Montgomery County, Ohio during the week beginning Oct. 21, according to a statement Tuesday by Ohio's Regional Agencies Narcotics & Gun Enforcement Task Force.
The operation was carried out in partnership with the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Ohio Attorney General's Office, the task force said, and authorities hailed the successful operation for keeping the massive shipment of the drug off the streets.
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"The quantity of fentanyl in this case amounts to chemical warfare and a weapon of mass destruction," said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Vance Callender, Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge for Michigan and Ohio, called 45 pounds of fentanyl "enough to kill the entire population of Ohio, many times over."
Shamar Davis, 31, Anthony Franklin, 30, and Grady Jackson, 37, of Dayton, Ohio were arrested in the operation on suspicion of narcotics trafficking. They face charges of possession with intent to distribute 400 or more grams of fentanyl, as well as felony possession of a firearm, the task force statement said.
In January, Customs and Border Protection officers made the largest fentanyl bust in U.S. history, confiscating 254 pounds of the drug hidden in the floor compartment of a truck carrying cucumbers in Nogales, Arizona.
Fentanyl, a pharmaceutical opioid originally developed to treat cancer, can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine and is at the forefront of the nation's opioid epidemic. Illegally made fentanyl is often added to drugs like heroin to increase their potency but without the user's knowledge, elevating the risk of overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Fentanyl and methamphetamine are responsible for the vast majority of overdose deaths in our area,” the Montgomery county coroner, Dr. Kent Harshbarger, said in the task force statement.
Ohio saw a 1,000 percent increase in drug overdoses from 2007 to 2017. Unintentional drug poisoning has become the leading cause of accidental death in the state, overtaking vehicle crashes for the first time, according to statistics released by the Ohio Department of Health for 2000-17.
Ten people died from drug overdoses in one Ohio county in the space of just 26 hours in September.