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UPDATE: Man sentenced to 220 months in prison for role in heroin overdose case

(WSAZ)
Published: Aug. 15, 2016 at 5:22 PM EDT
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UPDATE 4/17/17 @ 2:55 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man who plead guilty to distributing heroin connected to the overdoses of 26 people over a five-hour span has been sentenced.

Bruce Griggs, of Akron, was sentenced Monday in federal court to 220 months in prison with 3 years of supervision after his release.

Our crew in the courtroom says Griggs apologized to all the people who were harmed and also to his family for the pain he caused them.

Federal court Judge Robert Chambers said he gave Griggs a small break because he pled guilty and cooperated with law enforcement.

Judge Chambers added that because Griggs wasn't a heroin addict and was doing it for the money he wasn't getting any other breaks.

Griggs was told by Judge Chambers he was lucky that no one died in the overdose event, which he credited to emergency responders.

The incident happened on August 15th of 2016.

When asked what he did to make him guilty of this crime, Griggs told the Judge "I distributed heroin in Marcum Terrace".

Prosecutors say Griggs sold about 13 grams of the cut heroin in 1/2 gram measurements.

Fentanyl is used to treat severe pain and is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Carfentanyl is said to be 100 to 1,000 times stronger than fentanyl.


UPDATE 1/9/17 @ 4:45 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- An Ohio man entered a guilty plea in federal court Monday to distributing heroin connected to 27 overdoses in a five-hour span in Huntington.

Bruce Griggs of Akron, Ohio was charged with distributing heroin mixed with fentanyl and carfentanyl.

When asked what he did to make him guilty of this crime, Griggs told the Judge "I distributed heroin in Marcum Terrace".

Prosecutors say Griggs sold about 13 grams of the cut heroin in 1/2 gram measurements.

Fentanyl is used to treat severe pain and is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Carfentanyl is said to be 100 to 1,000 times stronger than fentanyl.

Twenty-seven people overdosed last August, resulting in two deaths.

Griggs now faces up to 20 years in prison and could face up to a $1 million fine. Sentencing is set at 1:30 p.m. April 10.


UPDATE 9/29/16 @ 4 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - A trial date has been set for an Ohio man who has pleaded not guilty to heroin distribution in connection to 27 overdoses in a five-hour span in a single West Virginia city.

The Herald-Dispatch reports 22-year-old Bruce Griggs of Akron, Ohio, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to drug distribution charges following the Aug. 15 spate of overdoses in Huntington. At least one man died.

His trial in federal court is set for Nov. 29.

An affidavit filed in court alleges that one of the victims who survived identified Griggs as the dealer, and police corroborated it with other witnesses and video surveillance near where the overdoses occurred.

Griggs' indictment revealed that investigators believe the heroin was mixed with the powerful painkiller fentanyl.


UPDATE 9/20/16 @ 5 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A grand jury has indicted a man in connection with more than two dozen overdoses, two of which were deadly.

The indictment charges Bruce Griggs, aka Benz, with intentionally distributing a quantity of heroin and a quantity of fentanyl with serious bodily injury resulting from their use.

On Aug. 15, police determined there were 28 overdoses in Cabell County, which resulted in one death in the county and one death in Huntington.

Police say an overdose victim, as well as some other people, identified Griggs as the supplier of the heroin.

A copy of the indictment is attached to this story.


UPDATE 9/7/16 @ 11:50 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man who faces federal charges in connection with several overdoses, including two that proved deadly, has a significant criminal history, according to court documents.

Bruce Lamar Griggs, 22, of Akron, Ohio, appeared Tuesday in federal court, waiving his right to a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing.

Court documents show that Griggs has been charged with 12 crimes on 11 different occasions. That doesn't include his current charges in the overdose cases. Griggs has been convicted of three felonies, including two drug possession convictions and one conviction for tampering with evidence, as well as five misdemeanors, including criminal trespass and domestic violence.

Griggs "has no job, no assets, and no involvement in (the greater Huntington) community," according to court documents.

On Aug. 15, police determined there were 28 overdoses in Cabell County, which resulted in one death in the county and one death in Huntington. Police say an overdose victim, as well as some other people, identified Griggs as the supplier of the heroin.

Following Tuesday's hearing, Griggs was returned to the custody of U.S. Marshals. His case is expected to go to a grand jury.


UPDATE 9/6/16 @ 12:25 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man charged in connection with a rash of overdoses that proved deadly for two victims appeared Tuesday in federal court in Huntington.

Bruce Lamar Griggs, 22, of Akron, Ohio, waived his right to a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing.

On Aug. 15, police determined there were 28 overdoses in Cabell County, which resulted in one death in the county and one death in Huntington.

Police say an overdose victim, as well as some other people, identified Griggs as the supplier of the heroin.

Following Tuesday's hearing, Griggs was returned to the custody of U.S. Marshals. His case is expected to go to a grand jury.


UPDATE 8/26/16 @ 6:30 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Federal authorities have arrested an Akron, Ohio, man in connection with the rash of overdoses that killed two people in Huntington earlier this month.

On Aug. 15, police determined there were 28 overdoses in Cabell County, which resulted in one death in the county and one death in Huntington.

Some of the earlier OD calls occurred in the 700 block of West 10th Street, behind Marcum Terrace, and on Sycamore Street.

"We were already going to do something in the Marcum Terrace area," said Capt. Rocky Johnson, the commander of the Huntington Police Department's Special Investigations Bureau. "Then the calls started coming out of all the overdoses, and it was just one after the other after the other. Our patrol guys were overwhelmed. EMS, of course, they were overwhelmed. The fire department was overwhelmed. It was pretty chaotic."

Johnson says police began following up on leads daily, talking to witnesses.

"Behind the scenes, what me and my guys were doing that nobody saw was we were going from house to house, following up," Johnson said. "We were trying to get out in front of it. We were trying to identify where that source of bad heroin was coming from and try to put a stop to it.

U.S. Attorney Carol Casto and Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli announced Friday that Bruce Lamar Griggs, 22, was arrested in Tallmadge, Ohio.

Griggs is being held on a federal criminal complaint that charges him with distribution of heroin.

According to an affidavit submitted by HPD Sgt. Paul Hunter, officers began investigating Griggs on Aug. 15 when emergency crews responded to a large number of heroin overdoses in a short period of time in the area of St. Louis Avenue and Marcum Terrace.

The affidavit states that one of the 28 overdose victims identified the seller of the heroin as Griggs and that several others provided corroborating information linking him to the heroin.

"The cooperation we got on this case was quite a bit of cooperation," Johnson said. "There's actually several people that were able to provide detailed information -- enough to support an affidavit for a warrant."

The affidavit also states that surveillance video shows a person matching Griggs’ description engaging in activity indicative of hand-to-hand drug distribution in the Marcum Terrace area shortly before the overdoses began.

Johnson says law enforcement in Ohio was already "familiar" with Griggs.

As far as people bringing drugs into Cabell County, Johnson says the police department has a strong message.

"Eventually, you're gonna get caught," he said. "If it's not today, it's going to be one day you're gonna get caught. Best thing to do is just go some place else. Of course, we don't want them selling dope at all and for addicts, they're taking advantage of a person that's in a bad situation. Our message is if you bring it here, we're going to do our best to stop you."

Griggs made his initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge on Thursday. He is now awaiting transportation back to Huntington to face the criminal charge against him.

The HPD and the Huntington Violent Crime and Drug Task Force are investigating the case.

Keep checking on WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.


UPDATE 8/26/16 @ 11:50 a.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Federal authorities have arrested an Akron, Ohio man in connection with the rash of overdoses that killed two people in Huntington earlier this month.

U.S. Attorney Carol Casto and Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli announced Friday that Bruce Lamar Griggs, 22, was arrested in Tallmadge, Ohio.

Griggs is being held on a federal criminal complaint that charges him with distribution of heroin.

According to an affidavit submitted by HPD Sgt. Paul Hunter, officers began investigating Griggs on August 15 when emergency crews responded to a large number of heroin overdoses in a short period of time in the area of St. Louis Avenue and Marcum Terrace.

The affidavit states that one of the 28 overdose victims identified the seller of the heroin as Griggs and that several others provided corroborating information linking him to the heroin.

The affidavit also states that surveillance video shows a person matching Griggs’ description engaging in activity indicative of hand-to-hand drug distribution in the Marcum Terrace area shortly before the overdoses began.

Griggs made his initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge on Thursday. He is now awaiting transportation back to Huntington to face the criminal charge against him.

The HPD and the Huntington Violent Crime and Drug Task Force are investigating the case.

Keep clicking on WSAZ mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.


UPDATE 8/18/16 @ 3:10 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- On a week that saw an unprecedented amount of drug overdoses in Huntington and beyond, police say it what even worse than initially thought.

Police say they have now determined there were 28 overdoses in Cabell County, which resulted in one death in the county and one death in Huntington. Officers believe those deaths are connected to a batch of heroin laced with something extra potent.

The majority of the overdoses happened after 3:30 p.m. Monday.

Police say one of the two deaths originally came in as a medical call Monday evening. Police say they later discovered the victim had a history of drug abuse. They also say through medical testing at the hospital prior to the man's death, it was found that he had a number of different drugs in his system.

The other victim was discovered in Cabell County Wednesday. Police say they believe he died of an overdose Monday.

Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry said earlier this week that his agency's resources are being tested.

"It's truly taxed us to the very end," Merry said.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest on information.


UPDATE 8/16/16 @ 10 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- At a news conference at Huntington police headquarters the day after the city saw an unprecedented amount of overdoses, officials say their resources were stretched to the limit.

"It truly taxed us to the very end," Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry said.

Police say a batch of heroin hit the streets Monday that was laced with something extra potent. What that was remains under investigation.

"We know through informant information that when something like this hits the streets, it draws like flies to sugar," Chief Joe Ciccarelli said. "It is something that is sought out."

Director of the Mayor's Office of Drug Control Policy Jim Johnson re-emphasized it's an issue they can't arrest their way out of.

"We've been preaching this for the last year," Johnson said. "It's prevention, it's treatment, and it's law enforcement. It's all three."

During the stretch of overdoses Monday, crews administered 10 doses of Narcan. Three of those were one individual.

"Of the 26 people who OD'd yesterday, with the exception of one who's on a ventilator at St. Mary's, the other 25 are shooting up again today," Ciccarelli said.

"If we're proud of anything it's that we didn't lose one life," Gordon Merry said.

"There was a son, there was a daughter, there was a mother, a father, that didn't die yesterday," Johnson said.

Nine people have been cited for use of an intoxicating substances or possession of drug paraphernalia. The chief says that's a gateway for people to enter the LEAD program and seek treatment for their addiction.


UPDATE 8/16/16

HUNTINGTON, W. Va. (AP) --Huntington officials are warning people about an especially dangerous batch of heroin after authorities responded to 26 overdoses within a four-hour span.

Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry said at a news conference Tuesday that eight of the victims were revived Monday using the opioid-overdose-reversing drug naloxone and others by a manual resuscitator. One victim was administered naloxone three times.

Merry told media outlets earlier that the heroin the users had taken was laced with a strong, unknown substance.

He says many of the overdoses were in an area surrounding one apartment complex, leading officials to believe the cases were connected.


UPDATE 8/15/16 @ 10 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Emergency responders in Huntington saw a wave of overdoses in a short time-span Monday afternoon and evening.

Cabell County 911 says they had 26 overdoses reported within 4 hours, beginning at about 3:30 p.m.

In August of last year, they responded to 39 overdose calls the entire month.

"We had a half-hour span where we had absolutely no trucks to send in the county," Cabell County EMS assistant supervisor David McClure said.

Some of the earlier OD calls occurred on the 700 block of West 10th Street, behind Marcum Terrace, and on Sycamore Street. That's where the first call came in, in which five people overdosed in the same house, McClure said.

"Most of the people waking up are admitting to using heroin," McClure told WSAZ.

Part of the investigation now will be to confirm exactly what made this batch so dangerous and where it came from.

"In the past we've had situations where it's been laced with drugs like fentanyl and other drugs like that, and it does seem to be a possibility today," McClure said.

"There's some really bad stuff going around, and everybody needs to be careful," Marcum Terrace resident Amelia Hughes said.

"If you do pick up anything today, be careful, don't use it," McClure said. "Today definitely does seem to be worse than usual. I don't know why, but it's not a normal batch."


UPDATE 8/15/16 @ 6:00 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) --- The number of reported overdoses has now risen to 11, according to Cabell County EMS.

ORIGINAL STORY 8/15/16 @ 5:23

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington Police say at least seven overdoses were reported in Huntington within half an hour and are believed to be connected.

At least four occurred at a house on Sycamore Street near the intersection of St. Louis Avenue.

Others were reported at West 10th Street and 7th Avenue, as well as a Burger King.

Police say it's unconfirmed what the people overdosed on. Police are conducting interviews with people in these areas.

Because of the short amount of time these overdoses occurred in, it's believed they may all be connected.

The call initially came in as a possibly fatality at Sycamore Street, but police say as of 5 p.m., they are not aware of any deaths in this case.

All of the overdose victims have been transported to nearby hospitals.

Keep clicking WSAZ mobile and wsaz.com for the latest on this developing story.