Search warrants filed in Shenandoah County following overdoses

Several search warrants have been filed in Shenandoah County Circuit Court in the last two weeks to seize medical test results of three people believed to have overdosed on illegal drugs.

The searches and seizures come amid a rising wave of the heroin epidemic in Northern Virginia.

In each case, authorities were made aware of a nonlethal overdose. Police officers then conducted interviews at the hospital and obtained warrants to seize test results of victims’ blood and other biological fluid.

According to Sgt. S.W. Thompson, who serves on the Strasburg Police Department as well as the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force, officers seize the information to obtain proof of possession via intoxication. However, he said the information is used as leverage to help track the source of the drugs, not to incriminate those using at a personal level.

“We see what was in their system with the expectation of using that as cooperating information to trace distribution,” Thompson said. “That’s the ultimate goal: finding out who distributed the drugs.”

Thompson specified it is the commonwealth attorney who decides how to handle charges against cooperating suspects.

In one of the overdoses, officers responded to a call regarding an overdosed man. They found him on the floor of his residence drifting in and out of consciousness next to an uncapped syringe, a white powdery substance consistent with heroin, and other drug paraphernalia, according to the search warrant.

Officers then interviewed the man at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital and, upon his cooperation, seized medical records generated as a result of the overdose in question as well as samples of his blood and urine to be analyzed for the presence of narcotics by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.

Officers also seized his phone in an attempt to trace distribution, according to the warrant.

In another instance, a police officer was dispatched to a 7-11 where a man was sitting in his car with his key in the ‘on’ position, the wipers running, and a baby in his lap, according to one of the warrants.

The man said he had stopped at the store because he had almost been hit by lightning. He said he’s used illegal drugs including marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin in the past, and failed a field sobriety test at the time of the incident.

“(He) stated heaven was trying to pull him into the sky and he saw Fat Albert and Santa Claus,” the warrant states.

According to the warrant, the victim’s blood was drawn to test for the presence of illegal drugs.

Thompson said working to stop the flow of drugs into the greater Shenandoah Valley is frustrating, given that they come from Baltimore, Richmond and beyond.

“We have quite the epidemic with heroin overdoses here in the valley,” he said.

Baker said despite the search warrants filed on the users, they’re just a first step toward identifying the networks.

“Our investigation doesn’t stop with the warrant, we try to take it as far as we can,” he said.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com.