(James Smith photo)

UPDATE: Delta man charged in year-long fentanyl overdose investigation

21-year-old Daniel Chesshire has been charged in relation to nine overdoses in South Delta last year

Delta Police have charged 21-year-old Delta resident Daniel Chesshire in connection to nine overdoses in South Delta last year.

On Aug. 31, 2016, emergency crews responded to reports of fentanyl overdoses at four separate locations within a 20 minute time span. Each of the victims had reported breathing problems, and one person was in full cardiac arrest. The DPD and the B.C. Ambulance service used Narcan on eight of the nine people found in medical distress.

The overdose victims were recreational users who believed they were ingesting cocaine.

Related: Delta Police worried nine fentanyl overdoses in 20 minutes could be ‘start of a wave’

Police seized drugs from the scene and have been investigating the event over the past year, resulting in charges against Chesshire, who now faces two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance.

“It is vital that we continue to pursue every avenue available to us to investigate these types of incidents,” said DPD Chief Neil Dubord in a press release.

“So much harm has been inflicted on so many. It is important for us to continue with public education and awareness, but we will also be tenacious in our investigative efforts as well.”

The investigation took so long, Delta Police public affairs coordinator Sharlene Brooks said, because of the many “complexities” associated with the case.

“As you can imagine, we had some difficulty with the cooperation of those involved,” Brooks said. “They’re likely embarrassed and ashamed, didn’t want everyone to know. There’s some fear involved.”

“We needed to navigate this investigation carefully,” she continued.

Related: Wave of overdoses in Delta inspire community forum on fentanyl

Because of the nine overdoses, the Delta Police Department — in collaboration with the Corporation of Delta, the Delta School District and Fraser Health —put together a pair of public forums on the dangers of fentanyl; one in Tsawwassen on Sept. 14, 2016 and one the following day in North Delta.

“We don’t think that drug use … has increased at all. We just think the dangers of drug use have increased as a result of fentanyl,” Dubord said during the North Delta forum. “That’s an important thing to say: We don’t think there’s an epidemic of drug use within our communities, we think that the fentanyl issue around drug use is what the epidemic is and potentially the biggest risk for our community.”

The forum was partly to bring public awareness to the dangers of drug use during B.C.’s opioid crisis.

The public awareness about drug use and overdoses is something public affairs coordinator Sharlene Brooks said she didn’t expect years ago.

“Who would have thought that we as the police would be giving tips and reminders on drug use, saying don’t use alone. Start with small amounts if you’re going to use … Years ago, you wouldn’t ever hear that coming out of a police agency,” Brooks said.

“But the reality is people are going to use these illicit drugs. There is no controls on quality. It’s driven by the money of the dealers and suppliers, and they certainly don’t have any value in human life.”

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson was also at the forum, and announced the start of a program that would see Delta police officers equipped with naxolone and trained in its use. The officers began carrying naxolone in November 2016.

Related: Delta Police Department gets preliminary approval for officers to carry naloxone

Chesshire is due to appear in court on Sept. 28, 2017, nearly 13 months after the initial incident.

According to Brooks, the charge is important to both this case and all drug-related incidents in Delta.

“Public education and public awareness about the opioid crisis is critical, but we certainly can’t relent on our investigative pursuits in these incidents,” she said.

“We need to continue to do enforcement and education combined. We can’t just do one or the other.”

– with files from James Smith