PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County Sheriff’s Office officials said 288 people overdosed on opioids in Bay County last year, and 31 of them died. BCSO investigators charged three people in connection to three of those deaths.
“If we have this number of deaths from any other cause, there would be absolute outrage,” Bay County Sherrif Tommy Ford said. “I’m here to tell you I’m outraged by it because I see our friends and family dying from it.”
Officials said 21-year-old Joseph Anthony Bourgoin provided five blue “M30” pills to someone who overdosed. When first responders arrived on the scene, the victim was already dead. They said the pills and residue next to the victim tested positive for fentanyl.
“We’re going to hold people accountable when they sell fentanyl or other drugs that contribute to a death,” Sheriff Ford said. “We treat overdose deaths as they are like a homicide. If somebody sells drugs to somebody and they die from that, the statute allows us to charge them with manslaughter or homicide.”
In the second case, deputies said they performed a welfare check and found the victim dead of an overdose with a syringe next to the body. They said they determined that 38-year-old Danielle Michelle Cooper provided the drugs. When they searched her home, they said Cooper had 28.3 grams of fentanyl.
“What I want to say to dealers is that every overdose death that we have, we’re going to treat it like a homicide,” Sheriff Ford said. “If we’re able to prove it, we’re going to arrest them for homicide, because they are they are the ones that are responsible for killing individuals.”
Investigators also said 45-year-old Mary Elizabeth Guest bought some fentanyl and then split it with two friends. Both of them overdosed. One recovered, but the other died. The autopsy showed 30.1 milligrams of fentanyl, 10-times the fatal dosage.
The suspects are in the Bay County Jail each charged with manslaughter. Each has a $100,000 bond.