Man ar­rested after al­legedly sup­ply­ing fen­tanyl in over­dose

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Robert Sa­longa rsa­[email protected]­yare­anews­ Con­tact Robert Sa­longa at 408-920- 5002.

Au­thor­i­ties have ar­rested a man they say sup­plied the widely abused painkiller fen­tanyl to a woman who died of an over­dose last fall, ac­cord­ing to the San Ma­teo County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

But while sher­iff’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors sought to im­pli­cate the sus­pect in the death, prose­cu­tors said they only have grounds to charge him with drug pos­ses­sion crimes.

Jon Ox­en­ford, 25, of East Palo Alto, was ar­rested Wed­nes­day in con­nec­tion with the Sept. 26 over­dose death of a woman in San Car­los, the Sher­iff’s Of­fice said.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing the Sher­iff’s Of­fice and county coro­ner con­firmed that she died after tak­ing fen­tanyl, a syn­thetic opi­oid sim­i­lar to mor­phine and heroin but is 50 to 100 times more po­tent, and is typ­i­cally re­served for peo­ple with se­vere pain fol­low­ing surgery or for pa­tients need­ing pal­lia­tive care, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Drug Abuse.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors even­tu­ally tied the fen­tanyl the vic­tim con­sumed to Oxen- ford. When he was ar­rested Wed­nes­day, the Sher­iff’s Of­fice said they re­cov­ered “more nar­cotics and nar­cotic para­pher­na­lia.” He was booked into the San Ma­teo County jail on sus­pi­cion of trans­port­ing a con­trolled sub­stance, pos­sess­ing a con­trolled sub­stance, and pos­sess­ing an opium pipe, and is be­ing held on $115,000 bail, ac­cord­ing to jail records.

The Sher­iff’s Of­fice stated in a news re­lease that Ox­en­ford also was booked on sus­pi­cion of in­flict­ing great bod­ily in­jury, but that is not re­flected in jail records, and Dis­trict At­tor­ney Steve Wagstaffe said “he’s not charged with any­thing re­lated to that.” Ul­ti­mately, he said, short of Ox­en­ford in­ject­ing the drugs into the woman him­self, such a case would be dif­fi­cult to prove be­yond a rea­son­able doubt to a jury.

“It’s re­ally hard to prove un­der Cal­i­for­nia law,” Wagstaffe said. “Our be­lief is that he’s where she ob­tained the drugs in the over­dose. But while he may have pro­vided the re­source, he was not the in­stru­ment of her death.”

Fen­tanyl has be­come a prom­i­nent sym­bol of what au­thor­i­ties and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have dubbed a na­tional opi­oid cri­sis. It has been im­pli­cated in a string of celebrity deaths in­clud­ing Prince, Tom Petty, Mac Miller and Lil Peep. Two Alameda County Sher­iff’s deputies al­most died after in­hal­ing air­borne fen­tanyl dur­ing a raid last sum­mer, but were saved by the nasal in­halant an­ti­dote Nar­can, which is now rou­tinely car­ried by law-en­force­ment of­fi­cers and cred­ited with re­viv­ing over­dose vic­tims they have en­coun­tered in the field.

Jon Ox­en­ford, 25, of East Palo Alto, was ar­rested Jan. 9 for al­legedly sup­ply­ing fen­tanyl to a woman who died of an over­dose in San Car­los on Sept. 26, 2018.

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