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Law enforcement warns public of deadly fentanyl laced drugs in Mississippi

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(Photo by Karolina Grabowska)

Local, state and federal law enforcement officials and prosecutors from Mississippi are warning the public about a number of recent drug overdoses and deaths in North Mississippi that have been linked to several street drugs containing the highly potent and deadly drug fentanyl. The joint warning comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi, the Oxford Police Department and the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department.

A recent investigation has revealed a number of counterfeit pills and sedatives are being sold in the illegal drug market and causing a significant number of overdoses, including several that have resulted in deaths in North Mississippi. In Lafayette County alone, there have been 11 overdoses and three deaths tied to counterfeit pills in 2020.

The drugs in question, which mainly include counterfeit Oxycodone, hydrocodone, Xanax, Lortab, Percocet, Ecstasy and even some methamphetamine, include fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine and lethal in very small amounts. Although the pills look like legitimate medications prescribed for pain or anxiety, they are often manufactured and imported from Mexico or China.

“DEA investigations have uncovered rogue manufacturing labs in China that directly supply U.S. distribution networks with synthetic opioids and the chemicals used to make them,” said Kevin J. Gaddy, the DEA assistant special agent in charge for Mississippi. “In addition, traditional Mexico-based drug trafficking networks with established infrastructure and smuggling routes continue to supply the United States with heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl-based compounds. These networks operate in Mississippi, and we will continue to work in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, MBN, and all state and local law enforcement agencies to target and stop these organizations from distributing this poison on the streets of our communities.”

U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar stressed the dangers that accompany the illegal purchase and consumption of these pills. “If a pill is not prescribed by your doctor and purchased at a pharmacy, there is a really good chance that it is counterfeit. Counterfeit drugs may look identical to those legally prescribed, but the difference is that counterfeit drugs are not regulated in any form or fashion,” Lamar said. “We know that there are bad batches of pills here in our area that contain fentanyl and that are causing overdoses and deaths. The bottom line is that if you are thinking of taking a counterfeit pill, don’t do it. If you do, you are playing Russian roulette with your life.”

Steven Maxwell, the Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics shared a similar warning for Mississippi residents. “The use of illicit drugs poses a perilous danger and threat to the life of those who consume them,” he said. “The introduction of counterfeit pills and sedatives into the North Mississippi market adds an additional layer of risk. It is critical that drug users realize that the next high could be their last.”

Fentanyl laced counterfeit pills not only pose a danger to those who take them, but to individuals who merely come into physical conduct with them and to law enforcement officers and agents who investigate. For example: Deputies with the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department stopped a vehicle Aug. 13, on U.S. Hwy 82 and a probable cause search of that vehicle resulted in the discovery of 1,300 tablets of apparent Xanax and Ecstasy. As the investigating deputies examined the pills, two deputies began having symptoms consistent with fentanyl exposure. Both deputies were treated at a hospital as a result, and naloxone or Narcan, a drug that counteracts the toxic effects of opioids, was administered to one deputy.

Based on a nationwide sampling of counterfeit pills seized in 2019, DEA found that 27% of them contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.

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Martin and Mosher inducted as ERDC Distinguished Civilian Employees

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Dr. William "Bill" Martin and Dr. Reed Mosher (photos courtesy ERDC)

The U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center will induct two former employees to the Waterways Experiment Station Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees Oct. 15 at 1 p.m. in the ERDC Headquarters Auditorium.

Dr. Bill Martin and Dr. Reed Mosher will join the ranks of more than 100 former employees whose significant career achievements left a lasting impression on both ERDC and the nation.

Martin and Mosher both served as directors of laboratories at the ERDC. Both pioneered technologies that proved to be life saving for American Soldiers and both left behind a remarkable legacy when they retired from federal service.

Each year, the ERDC inducts new members to the gallery, the highest honor bestowed to those who have worked at WES in Vicksburg.

Martin, a U.S. Army veteran, ended his 41-year ERDC career in 2013 as director of the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory. In that role, he led a $90 million research program that provided cutting-edge technology solutions to more than 500 projects around the world. Martin was also instrumental in updating the lab’s world-class facilities, including the development of a state-of-the-art Ship Simulator Complex, which allows engineers and pilots to simulate ports, harbors and maritime environments all over the world.

Martin is also remembered for being a leader in addressing complex groundwater issues on military installations, as well as for leading a team that performed emergency modeling of the Sava River in Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of the 1st Armor Division’s peacekeeping role after the Balkan War. His team provided daily river condition forecasts and answered engineering questions for more than 450 consecutive days, which led to the creation of the WES Tele-Engineering Program. Today that program is known as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reachback Operations Center, which is located in Vicksburg and connects deployed troops in the field to subject-matter experts back home who can help solve engineering challenges for them.

Mosher, who spent 40 years as a federal employee, retired as director of the Information Technology Laboratory  in 2018. Under his leadership, the lab’s staff grew by 108%, becoming the second largest ERDC laboratory. He also oversaw the construction of a 66,000 square-foot expansion to the laboratory, and his vision for a new secure computing facility is under construction and scheduled for completion later this year.

Before his ITL role, Mosher served as the lead technical director for military engineering in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, where he was also directly involved with assessments after some of the world’s most notorious attacks and bombings — Oklahoma City in 1995, the U.S. Embassies in Africa in 1998 and the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon. He was instrumental in developing new technologies designed to protect soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from rockets, mortars and other explosives.

Even after their retirements, both inductees are still involved with the ERDC today. Martin is a member and served as the 2019 president of the ERDC Alumni Association, while Mosher is the director of the Mississippi State University Institute for Systems Engineering Research, a partnership initiative with the ERDC.

 

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Crime

Vicksburg police make a drug bust after brief pursuit

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James Morris (photo courtesy VPD)

Vicksburg police officers arrested a man Tuesday on drug charges after a brief pursuit.

James Morris, 30, of Vicksburg was arrested shortly after 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, on U.S. Highway 80 just outside the city limits. The officers found that Morris was in possession of crack cocaine.

Charged with one count of possession of cocaine, Morris appeared Tuesday before Judge Angela Carpenter in the Vicksburg Municipal Court for his arraignment. Carpenter bound him over to the Warren County grand jury on a $30,000 bond.

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Crime

Williams arrested for two separate burglaries at the Vicksburg Mall

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Felix Williams (photo courtesy VPD)

Vicksburg police arrested Felix Williams, 30, of Vicksburg, for two separate burglaries at the Vicksburg Mall.

For a break-in Sunday, Oct. 11, into the mall and Jordan’s, Williams was charged with two counts of business burglary. Williams was also charged with two counts of business burglary and one count of grand larceny for the Oct. 2 burglary at the Sports Addition.

Monday, Oct. 12, Judge Angela Carpenter in the Vicksburg Municipal Court set Williams bond at $400,000 and bound him over to the Warren County grand jury.

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