Two inmates died and several were hospitalized late Wednesday after suspected drug overdoses inside a Miami-Dade jail.
Investigators are probing whether the drugs were heroin or fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that has killed scores in South Florida in the past few years. Sources identified the dead men as Juan Salgado, 24, who was awaiting trial for murder, and Jesus Perdomo, 25, who was jailed after an alleged probation violation on a murder charge.
The inmates were being housed at the Pretrial Detention Center, also known as the Dade County Jail, 1321 NW 13th St., across from Miami’s criminal courthouse. Miami-Dade police responded to the jail with officers in protective suits and drug-sniffing dogs.
Miami-Dade homicide bureau will investigate, as they do with all deaths at jails. Investigators will also focus on who smuggled the illegal drugs into the jail. The deaths come four months after a group of inmates were hospitalized after reportedly suffering seizures that might have been drug related.
Daniel Junior, the interim corrections director, said the department “would like to extend our condolences to the families of the deceased” and officers “responded appropriately and timely to a medical emergency to include emergency room transportation.”
“Due to the on-going nature of the investigation, no further comment can be made at this time,” Junior said.
Salgado was awaiting trial on a murder charge in the case of Christian McKenzie, 21, who was found shot to death near the Everglades in November 2013. His trial was set for the end of February.
“It’s outrageous they can get fentanyl in the jail,” said his defense attorney, Gennaro Cariglio, who was informed of his client’s death by prosecutors early Thursday.
As for Perdomo, he had been on probation for a 2009 murder conviction. But he was jailed in July after a new arrest for driving with a suspended license and marijuana possession, and was still awaiting a hearing for the probation violation.
The effects of fentanyl and its variants have been widely chronicled, devastating communities across the nation and in Florida, where a crackdown on prescription painkillers such as Oxycodone is believed to have led to the spike in heroin and opioid abuse.
Fentanyl, which can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, is a prescription painkiller, but law enforcement investigators have found illicit varieties from Mexico and China flooding the streets. The Miami Herald chronicled the rise of synthetic drugs, including fentanyl, in its China Pipeline series in 2015.
Last year in Miami-Dade, opioids contributed to the deaths of over 500 people, according to newly released medical examiner statistics. Of those, 280 involved illegal fentanyl or similar synthetic versions.
In 2017, so far, fentanyl and synthetic varieties have contributed to the deaths of 211 people, according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office.