An Ohio police chief has died after he reportedly overdosed on drugs that were taken from the department’s evidence room.
The incident happened in Kirkersville, where Police Chief James Hughes Jr. was found unconscious in his home on May 25. As Fox News reported, an autopsy would show that he died from an overdose of fentanyl, a powerful drug often added to heroin to increase its potency.
The investigation of the police chief’s death was turned over to the neighboring Reynoldsburg Police Department. The coroner’s office said they found a plastic sandwich bag that tested positive for cocaine and a syringe that contained fentanyl at the scene of the man’s death, the Newark Advocate reported.
James Hughes Jr. was 35 at the time when he died, and investigators said he had only recently joined the department. Fellow officers remembered him as a dedicated public servant.
“He was hired in March and wasn’t here that long, but he kept me informed [about] what was going on,” Kirkersville Mayor Terry Ashcraft told the Newark Advocate after Hughes’ death. “A lot of stuff goes on in this town, and he’d come and done his job and never had a complaint on him.”
Officials said that the police chief’s death shows the extent of the heroin epidemic across Ohio, one of the states hit hardest by a surge in overdoses. A Washington Post report last year showed that people are dying of overdoses at such a high rate that there is no longer room in morgues for all of the bodies.
Rick Walters, an investigator with the Stark County Coroner’s Office, said that overdose deaths are up dramatically and are at the highest he has seen in his career of more than four decades. In some parts of Ohio, overdose deaths are up more than 20 percent in just a year and have been steadily rising for the past several years.
“I’ve been involved in public safety for 40 some years; I remember the drug problem we had in the late ’60s and early ’70s when I joined the department,” Walters said. “The fatality numbers are nothing even close to this.”
James Hughes Jr. had a wife and three young children at the time of his death. Friends set up a GoFundMe account to help provide for his family that has raised more than $1,000. The page noted that because Hughes had recently changed jobs, he did not have life insurance.