PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Police are investigating if seven suspected drug overdose deaths are connected, and whether a new law could hold dealers accountable for the deaths.
Major David Lapatin said seven people, ranging in age from 25 to 49, died in the capital city so far in July. The cases are all suspected overdoses, though the causes of death are pending toxicology reports.
The most recent was a suspected double overdose on Willard Avenue on July 13, when a 40-year-old and 38-year-old died. The two men were found unresponsive on a couch by a family member, according to a police report.
On July 4, two men, 24 and 25 years old, both died after police suspect they ingested a white powdery substance in a Battey Street apartment.
Lapatin said a 31-year-old man died after a possible overdose on New York Avenue on July 7, a 45-year-old man possibly overdosed on Chapin Avenue on July 2, and a 49-year-old woman died of a suspected overdose on Academy Avenue on July 1.
State lawmakers passed a new law in 2018, dubbed Kristen’s Law, which can hold dealers responsible for their clients’ deaths. Lapatin said the new law means police are investigating the overdoses with the “same intensity as we would investigate a homicide.”
None of the cases have been labeled a homicide yet, he added, and no arrests have been made.
“We’re doing everything we would do as if we were investigating a homicide because the outcome may be to charge whoever sold them these drugs,” Lapatin explained.
He said the powerful opiate fentanyl is suspected to have caused the overdoses. According to the police reports, bags of white powder were recovered from the scenes at Battey St., Willard Avenue and New York Avenue and were sent to the state lab for testing.