Police were investigating three people about hazardously powerful heroin circulated in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood that killed a man and placed 21 other people in the hospital on Saturday. The drugs, which residents said were being passed out in aluminum foil packages and plastic bags for free, appeared to have been cut with the synthetic prescription pain-killer fentanyl, which is usually given to terminally ill cancer patients, Chicago Fire Department field officer John Harding said. Authorities initially said Saturday’s entire overdose victims survived, but they later learned that a man had died. Authorities identified him as Anthony Moore, 39, of the 3900 block of West Race. The weekend's rash of overdoses is part of a disturbing trend that has plagued the city and other parts of the country for several weeks. Free heroin has become a business strategy for pushers. And the stronger the drugs, the more popular the dealers and their selling spots, police say.
HAZ-MAT TEAM CALLED
"Everybody needs to be very cautious with whatever's out there," Harding said. "It's a very dangerous situation," said Harrison District Police Lt. Diane O'Sullivan, standing near the feces-strewn garage where authorities Saturday morning found three men who overdosed, as well as 200 hypodermic needles. Police brought in three other people for questioning Saturday, but O'Sullivan did not know if charges would be filed. The Police Department's task force also has joined the probe, she said. Paramedics initially were called to the 1100 block of North Springfield to check on an overdosed man who was thrown onto the street from a blue pickup truck about 10 a.m., Harding said. Once on the scene, they found the three men passed out in the garage behind a two-story brick home on the same street, Harding said. A hazardous materials team was called to clean up all of the needles at the garage "shooting gallery," Harding said. "At first, we tried to pick it up ourselves, but there were so many that we had to call for a haz-mat response," Harding said. Also inside the unattached, graffiti-defaced garage were an unplugged television, a diaper box, aluminum foil wrappers and other debris. A pile of coats sat just outside.
5 SIMILAR CASES A DAY EARLIER
Several other people who had injected the drugs scattered from the area when they learned a neighbor had called 911, O'Sullivan said. Some of them were later found overdosed in eight other parts of the neighborhood, which falls in the Harrison, Shakespeare and Grand Central police districts, she said. Nine people were treated and released at Norwegian-American Hospital, spokeswoman Elio Montenegro said. Three others taken to the hospital later in the afternoon were expected to be discharged by evening, he said. Other overdose victims were taken to Loretto Hospital, Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center and West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, according to the Fire Department. Police did not know if Saturday's overdoses were related to five from the day before that stemmed from bad heroin passed out at Chicago and Cicero -- a mile away. Jose Galvez, who owns a home in the 1100 block of North Springfield but lives a block away, said he wasn't surprised by the events. "I get used to this situation," he said. "The main problem in this area is the drugs." Maria Uribe, 44, moved from the troubled neighborhood just three months ago so her five children would not have to live in the unhealthy environment. She said most of the users are homeless. Uribe said that It was really unfortunate that people are making heroin available for them for free so that they can keep on being addicted.