18 Pittsburgh cops sent to hospital after possible fentanyl exposure during ICE raids
Eighteen Pittsburgh SWAT officers were sickened by suspected fentanyl while assisting federal officials on a series of raids in the West End of the city Wednesday morning, authorities said.
Residents awoke to a large law enforcement presence as Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania state police assisted Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security investigators and U.S. Postal inspectors with serving search warrants and making arrests at three separate locations in the West End's Elliott section, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Margaret Philbin.
ICE was the lead agency on the raids at two houses on Lakewood Street and one on Bond Street as part of an ongoing drug investigation, according to a statement from Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song.
During one of the raids, a table at the house on Bond Street got overturned as officers entered, causing the suspected fentanyl powder on it to become airborne, Song said. Several officers at the scene experienced dizziness and numbness, and 18 were transported to UPMC Mercy for evaluation before being medically cleared and released, said Public Safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler.
No federal officials were affected.
"Fentanyl exposure is an all too real risk to law enforcement as we learned this morning," Song said in his statement. "Quick and professional action by first responders helped avert a potential catastrophe."
Lynell Guyton, 27; Calvin Armstrong, 31; Anthony Lozito, 38; and Kristen Shearer, 21, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the fentanyl. According to the criminal complaint, all four were inside the Bond Street house packaging the drugs in stamp bags branded "Ferrari" and "Luis Vuitton" when police entered around 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Lozito, the owner of the home, told investigators he allowed the drugs to be packaged and kept there in exchange for a share of the product; Guyton had been previously charged with possessing suspected fentanyl and attempting to receive a package shipped from Hong Kong containing numerous synthetic fentanyl analogues, the complaint said.
The defendants were awaiting an appearance in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia R. Eddy on Wednesday afternoon. The government was seeking to detain them until trial. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison.
Megan Guza and Matthew Santoni are Tribune-Review staff writers.