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Huntsville police announce major drug arrests

143 overdoses occurred during in Huntsville and Madison County in July, which is an average of more than four overdoses per day.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Overdoses have been on the rise in Huntsville and Madison County. Of the 543 overdoses this year, 143 were in July, and about 1/3 are fentanyl-related.

The Huntsville Police Department announced arrests that resulted in a large amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine coming off the street. 

Officials said the North Alabama Drug Task Force Agents (NADTF) seized 11.2 pounds of fentanyl, 31 pounds of methamphetamine, 7,000 pressed fentanyl pills, 2.4 pounds of cocaine, 200 MDMA tablets and 19 pounds of marijuana. Agents also recovered 19 firearms and $72,740 in drug proceeds.

NADTF arrested 32-year-old Juan Orlando Matthews Jr., Lawrence O’Neal Beasley, 35 and Willie Earl Grace Jr., 34, for drug trafficking in relation to the investigations.

“Drugs like fentanyl are destroying the lives of people in our community every day,” Deputy Chief DeWayne McCarver said.  “I am so thankful for the hard work and dedication of our NADTF Agents to get these dangerous drugs off our streets.”

Since January of 2022, first responders in Huntsville and Madison County have responded to 543 overdoses, of those, 40 resulted in deaths.

“We want to remind the community that the opioid epidemic is still thriving, and we are out on the front lines fighting,” said NADTF Sgt. Joe Kennington. “Our NADTF Agents are working to stop those who prey on those battling addiction.”

“Three milligrams of pure fentanyl is potent enough to kill an adult,” Madison County Coroner Dr. Tyler Berryhill explained. “To put that into perspective, that would be just three grains of sugar.”

“These overdoses put a strain on your emergency services personnel to include not only HPD but all area law enforcement agencies as well as Huntsville Fire & Rescue, HEMSI and the Madison County Coroner’s Office,” McCarver added. “We are grateful for the hard work of all our first responders to keep our community safe.”

RELATED: "End Addiction" walk in Huntsville honors those lost and provides resources for those struggling.

First responders, such as HEMSI speak on how these overdoses strain hospitals when they come in contact with someone poisoned by fentanyl.

Don Webster, HEMSI Community Relations Officer added, "They're probably going to be there for 8, 12, 24 hours, if not admitted."

North Alabama Drug Task Force' agents list the many reason why the fentanyl synthetic drugs is dangerous.

"It's so unpredictable because these drugs are made in basements and hotel rooms, and garages, and they're made with bullet blenders, credit cards, and razors. They're not professionally cut, they're not professionally mixed." Said Sgt. Joe Kennington, from NADTF.

Madison County Coroner, Dr. Tyler Berryhill, gives us a picture of what they are seeing. 

"That's something that we're seeing on average, every 72 hours. somebody loses their life on a drug-related death. And we look back in the past five weeks, and we've seen that number uptick in one week alone where we've had several deaths in the same three-day period."

First responders also warn us this drug is a danger to more than people who intentionally using it.

"When I look at fentanyl, this is a substance that even if you don't plan on taking it, if it's left around and you touch this, this absorbs through your skin. You don't have to be a user." added H.W. Mcfarlen, Jr., from Huntsville Fire & Rescue Chief.

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