Fentanyl linked to 5 deaths in Commerce City and more could still be circulating, DA says

File photo/AP
A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly in 2017.

The deaths of five people found in a Commerce City apartment Sunday were likely linked to fentanyl, of a powerful synthetic opioid, according to Adams County District Attorney Brian Mason.

And now Mason fears that the same batch of white powder — possibly masked as cocaine — is still circulating around the community northeast of Denver and could kill more people.

“I want parents to know that they need to talk to their kids,” Mason said. “I’m terrified that other people have these drugs from this particular dealer and they could ingest them and they could die. Fentanyl is dangerous and it’s lethal and it’s fast.”

Mason described the scene inside the apartment as “out of a nightmare, like a homicide scene.”

“They essentially dropped dead where they were. They didn’t have time to call for help,” he said. “We’re finding fentanyl in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine and oxycontin and, even in limited circumstances, we found it in marijuana. This is a huge public safety crisis.”

The five people who died in the apartment likely thought they were doing cocaine, Mason said.

“The evidence on scene was lines of powder on glass mirrors consistent with cocaine and not fentanyl,” Mason said.

A sixth adult and a 4-month-old infant were found alive at the apartment. They were taken to the hospital and both are expected to live. The adult who survived is not believed to be related to the infant.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is involved in the criminal investigation. Mason said he will try to find the dealer responsible for selling the drugs to the people.

In other cases this year, prosecutors have charged alleged drug dealers with manslaughter or homicide in deaths connected to those drugs. That includes a Longmont man charged in January.

In 2021, nearly 2,000 Coloradans died of fentanyl overdoses — a number that skyrocketed above totals from previous years.

Late last year, parents whose children fatally overdosed joined law enforcement, prosecutors and state Attorney General Phil Weiser in urging lawmakers to address the fentanyl crisis.

In his annual State of the State address last month, Gov. Jared Polis supported strengthening laws around prosecuting fentanyl dealers. That proposal is in the works at the state Capitol, but no legislation has been introduced yet.

“We also know there are times when the swift arm of justice is the best solution, which is why I look forward to legislation to strengthen penalties for drug dealers peddling fentanyl in our communities,” Polis said. “Coloradans are sick and tired of seeing this drug ruin lives and kill loved ones.”

This is a developing story that will be updated.

More stories on fentanyl in Colorado