Marion County deputies overcome by suspected fentanyl exposure during arrest

Ben Benton, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
·2 min read

Feb. 22—Three members of the Marion County, Tennessee, Sheriff's Office were treated for suspected exposure to the drug fentanyl Saturday after they arrested two people from California who were "passed out" in a vehicle in a local parking lot.

A Marion County sheriff's deputy found Brandy Petty and Chad Bimitross, both of Long Beach, inside a vehicle at a local business, Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said in a statement. Officers on the scene suspected they were under the influence of an intoxicant, Burnett said.

"After Petty was placed into a Marion County patrol car, it was determined that she had busted up several bags of white powder that were previously hidden on her person," Burnett said. The California pair were taken to the Marion County Justice Center in Jasper, Tennessee, for processing, he said.

"During the booking process, the arresting deputy, as well as two corrections officers, were overcome by a suspected exposure to fentanyl and had to be rushed by other officers and deputies to Parkridge West [Hospital] emergency room for treatment," Burnett said.

During a search of the California pair's vehicle, deputies allegedly found a firearm and an assortment of controlled substances including suspected methamphetamine, heroin, prescription pills, marijuana and other unidentified substances, he said.

Burnett said Monday that neither Petty nor Bimitross showed any ill effects from the incident and they didn't request medical treatment.

After the officers were taken for treatment, sheriff's office detectives, the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force and the Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force joined an investigation into the incident at the Marion County Justice Center, Burnett said.

"Based on the initial investigation it is believed that the substance that caused the law enforcement personnel to become sick is powder fentanyl," he said.

The substance was submitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation forensics laboratory for an official analysis, according to Burnett.

Petty and Bimitross were scheduled Monday for a bond hearing, officials said.

Tanner Bryant, pharmacy manager at Jasper Drugs just down the street from the justice center, said fentanyl can be particularly dangerous in high doses.

"It's a very strong pain medication," Bryant said, and there are real dangers in an overdose situation.

"The big thing you're going to look for is respiratory depression, which is basically your central nervous system depresses and your heart rate can drop and your breathing rate can drop till you go into a coma or even pass away if you get a high enough dose," he said.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.