Tag Archive for: Fentanyl

New Billboard Features Victims of Fentanyl Poisoning

On Saturday, DA Summer Stephan joined dozens of parents and family members who have lost a loved one to a fentanyl overdose. These parents and family members have sponsored a new billboard in Lakeside featuring the faces of their loved ones to raise awareness about the dangers of illicit fentanyl and prevent more deaths. Watch more in this video.

Photo of hand pouring blue pills from a small zip lock bag.

Murder Charges in Fentanyl Overdose Death

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that two individuals have been charged with murder in connection with the fentanyl overdose death of 31-year-old Connor Gerhart. Defendants Sheri Cavanaugh, 59, and her co-conspirator, Micah Seau,31, are both charged with murder and conspiracy to commit a crime. The pair conspired to sell the victim fentanyl pills which resulted in his overdose death.

“These defendants were aware of the dangers of the illegal drugs they were selling and in a callous indifference to the victim’s overdose death, conspired to continue dealing this poison in our communities,” said DA Stephan. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to hold individuals accountable for murder in cases like this and work to deliver justice for Connor’s family and loved ones.”

On June 2, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Overdose Response Team responded to the scene of the overdose and immediately commenced an investigation. During their investigation, they established that Seau and Gerhardt were longtime friends and that Cavanaugh and Seau were longtime associates dealing illegal narcotics. The investigation further showed that on May 31, 2023, Seau purchased at least $1,200 worth of fentanyl pills from co-defendant Cavanaugh in La Mesa. Thereafter, Seau invited the victim to pick up his pills and charged him $700. Mr. Gerhart picked up the pills, took some of them, and died on the evening of June 1. He was found in his home by a family friend. In the days following Gerhart’s death, Seau and Cavanaugh continued to be in contact regarding Seau purchasing more narcotics.

“Connor Gerhart is gone too soon,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony Chrysanthis. “His life was stolen by careless drug dealers who chose money over life. Removing those who sell fake pills and endanger the community is one of the top priorities for the DEA.”

Seau and Cavanaugh were both arrested without incident on May 31 at their homes. They were arraigned this Tuesday in San Diego Superior Court and pleaded not guilty. A readiness hearing was set for June 12. If convicted of all the charges, each defendant faces up to 15 years-to-life in state prison.

“Fentanyl continues to fatally plague our communities, said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. “The impacts we see from Fentanyl sales is overwhelming and destructive, prematurely ending the lives of those struggling with addiction every day.” “The San Diego Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Narcotics Task Force, in coordination with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office have dedicated significant resources to identify and aggressively prosecute those individuals responsible for the sales of these drugs, especially when such action causes death. This case is a result of the hard work and dedication of investigators to bring those responsible to justice.”

Since 2017, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has charged eight fentanyl dealers with homicide stemming from selling or furnishing fentanyl-laced drugs.

In 2021 and 2022, there was an average of about 800 deaths in San Diego County  caused by fentanyl or analogs of fentanyl in each year. To put that in perspective, in 2021, San Diego County experienced 88 homicides caused by firearms. That same year, the county saw 814 deaths caused by fentanyl poisoning.

“Fentanyl killed more young people in our nation than any other cause last year,” DA Stephan said. When someone sells fentanyl, knowing how incredibly dangerous that drug is, and another person dies as a result of using that drug, that is murder.” said DA Stephan.

This case is being prosecuted by the DA’s Major Narcotics Division.

Here are five things we should all know about the dangers of Fentanyl.

DA, 14 Mayors Work to Place Public Safety Initiative on the Ballot

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan was joined today by the mayors from cities across San Diego County as well as business leaders, crime victims and other concerned citizens in an effort to inform the public and boost signature gathering to place the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act on the November ballot. The measure would make communities, businesses, and streets safer and healthier by restoring the rule of law, holding repeat retail thieves and fentanyl dealers better accountable, and incentivizing individuals who are addicted and homeless to accept life-saving treatment.

The following mayors are all supporting the signature gathering effort: Vista Mayor John Franklin, Escondido Mayor Dane White, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, National City Mayor Ron Morrison, Chula Vista Mayor John McCann, San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones, La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis, Santee Mayor John Minto, Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, Carlsbad Mayor Keith Blackburn, Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner, Encinitas Mayor Tony Kranz, and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus.


“This is a balanced, commonsense initiative that addresses the fentanyl crisis by going after drug dealers who are killing our loved ones and imposes stronger penalties for repeat offenders of organized retail theft, which is hurting far too many families and local businesses,” said DA Stephan. “We need responsible reform that allows judges to incentivize life-saving treatment for those struggling with severe addiction, holds repeat offenders accountable but also gives first, second, and even third chances for those who commit theft or possess hard drugs to be treated for addiction or mental illness. Voters should have the opportunity to debate and weigh in on this important initiative.”

The measure has collected more than 360,000 signatures from California voters to place it on the November ballot, but nearly 550,000 valid signatures are needed.

The ballot measure is designed to fix the unintended consequences and harmful impacts of Proposition 47, which passed in 2014 and— for example— made retail theft under $950 and drug possession of methamphetamine and fentanyl into misdemeanors no matter how many times the crime is repeated.

“Neighborhood markets are the lifeblood of our communities,” said Neighborhood Market Association President Arkan Somo. “Proposition 47 unleashed a tidal wave of theft and violence that harms our small business owners, their employees and families, and most importantly, our customers. This proposed ballot measure will give law enforcement the tools it needs to keep all of us safe. “

Unintended Consequences of Prop 47 and current laws include:

  • Homelessness increased 51% in California while decreasing 11% in states with more balanced laws.
  • Homeless individuals in San Diego County are dying of drug overdoses at a rate 118 times higher than the general public.
  • Overdose deaths from illicit fentanyl have more than tripled, claiming more young lives in San Diego County than any other cause.
  • Organized retail theft has exploded, resulting in massive economic losses, losses of jobs caused by store closures, and losses of essential goods for struggling neighborhoods.
  • Fentanyl dealers who cause overdose deaths generally receive minimal consequences under the law.
  • Drug Courts that offer effective treatment have lost their ability to incentivize those who commit crimes driven by addiction to engage in treatment.

A recent survey showed that more than 85% of voters across every political party and each demographic support reforming Proposition 47.

“This initiative is a balanced approach that gives our justice system the tools they need to protect our communities from criminals while also providing an opportunity for people suffering from addiction to get back on their feet,” said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey. “Current policies have contributed to the rise in crime and homelessness throughout the state over the past decade, but this initiative will help reverse those trends and make California a safe place to live and do business once again.”

“As a retired San Diego Police Officer and Detective with 29 years of law enforcement experience, I possess a firsthand understanding of the adverse effects of Proposition 47 on the lives of Californians,” Santee Mayor John Minto said. “This initiative is a crucial step towards addressing the rising challenges of homelessness, drug addiction, and theft that plague our communities. Californians, including the residents of Santee, are demanding relief from the escalating lawlessness that has driven up the cost of goods statewide.”

Oceanside Mayor and retired public defender Esther Sanchez said, “The unintended consequences of Prop 47 took out the highly successful drug court program, leading to increased drug addiction and crime and in effect tying the hands of law enforcement protecting our neighborhoods and businesses. This citizens’ initiative gives back tools our communities need to help residents, many times family members, face their addictions and crimes while offering support and a path toward a life with positive options, such as family reunification, a home and jobs.”

The Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act would allow for stronger penalties for those engaged in the trafficking of hard drugs or for repeat offenders of retail theft. It will still give first and second chances for those who commit theft and possess hard drugs to be treated with a misdemeanor. However, on the third conviction, there’s a requirement that drug treatment be completed to earn a misdemeanor or be held accountable for a felony creating a new category of “Treatment Mandated Felony.” A fourth conviction results in a felony crime.

This initiative will also allow aggregation of multiple thefts to reach the $950 threshold to charge a felony theft so that those that are gaming the system can be stopped. The initiative addresses the fentanyl crisis by allowing harsher penalties fentanyl drug dealers whose actions lead to overdose deaths.

Signature gathering for the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act will take place in the coming weeks across the county and the public is encouraged to seek out opportunities to sign the petition.

Fentanyl-Laced Blue Pill

‘Day of Action’ Calls Attention to Alarming Spike in Fentanyl Overdose Deaths

A “Day of Action” will be held in National City on Saturday, August 28 to bring public awareness to the ongoing increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths across San Diego County, provide community resources on how to save a life and important information on how to avoid becoming an overdose victim. The event will include demonstrations on how to administer Narcan – the medication used to save a person who is overdosing on opioids, including fentanyl. Free doses of Narcan will be available.

In 2019, there were 152 fentanyl-related overdose deaths. Last year, that number spiked to 461. Based on data so far in 2021, experts predict there will be more than 760 overdose deaths.

‘Day of Action’ Calls Attention to Alarming Spike in Fentanyl Overdose Deaths“Our county is experiencing a fentanyl overdose crisis in which teens and adults dying in nearly every zip code,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “In spite of the focused outreach and awareness efforts of many of us in the community, opioid overdose deaths have continued to increase over the last two years. We are stepping up our efforts to educate the public on how street drugs, no matter how authentic they look, are often mixed with fentanyl and are behind the alarming spike in deaths. One pill can kill. This is a call to action for our community to become more informed and empowered to save lives.”

The event is being held at the DA’s CARE Center, 12 N. Euclid Avenue in National City from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The day was organized in partnership with the County Health and Human Services Agency, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and many other community organizations.

“The NAACP San Diego branch is happy to partner in this harm reduction activity,” said Francine Maxwell, president of the San Diego Chapter of the NAACP. “Harm Reduction is the best prevention to empower our community. The mission of the NAACP San Diego branch is to always collaborate before we challenge the status quo. We thank the District Attorney for her responsive action and leadership and to all the partners participating in this event.”

In addition to free Narcan, the Day of Action will feature informational booths and resources on housing, education, mentorship, health and behavioral services. Speakers will include DA Summer Stephan; Francine Maxwell, President of the San Diego Chapter of the NAACP; Dr. Nicole Esposito, Assistant Medical Director of County Behavioral Health Services; and DEA Special Agent Rocky Herron.

For more information on the dangers of opioids, watch this video.

Day of Action Against Fentanyl Overdose Deaths

Day of Action Against Fentanyl

This past weekend, the DA’s Office hosted a Day of Action to STOP fentanyl overdose deaths for the community to learn about the dangers of this opioid and how to save a life. Watch more in this video.