Federal authorities on Friday charged a Lake Worth man for selling a powerful painkiller that led to another man’s overdose death, the first case of its kind in Palm Beach County despite hundreds of recent overdose deaths.
Christopher Sharod Massena, 24, was indicted for distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, a charge that carries a 20-year minimum mandatory prison sentence. He was also charged with multiple counts of distributing heroin and heroin laced with fentanyl.
At roughly 100 times more powerful than morphine, fentanyl, a synthetic drug, can be deadly even in small doses, and it’s become common for drug dealers to combine it with heroin.
The effects have been lethal: roughly 200 people died in opioid-related overdoses in Palm Beach County last year, according to Palm Beach Post data. Many of those also had fentanyl in their system.
A Friday Justice Department press release hinted that the charge could be a new strategy to stem the growing number of overdose deaths. The FBI is already close to wrapping up a 2-year investigation of some drug treatment centers.
“The DEA is working very closely with our law enforcement partners in Palm Beach County and the United States Attorney’s Office to fully investigate and prosecute illicit drug trafficking activities to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for the consequences of their actions, especially when the sales result in the tragic death of another individual,” DEA Special Agent in Charge A.D. Wright said in a press release.
The press release said that on Feb. 18, Massena distributed fentanyl to a 23-year-old man who died after taking the drug. The man was not identified.
Afterward, Massena sold heroin and heroin laced with fentanyl to an undercover officer four times, according to the release. On April 21, Massena possessed heroin with the intent to distribute it, the release said. Those charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Local court records show Massena has been arrested several times on violence- and drug-related charges, with stints in Florida prisons from 2011-2012 and 2014-2015.
A message sent to Massena’s lawyer was not returned.
Introducing State Attorney Dave Aronberg, speaker asks crowd to videotape Aronberg’s speech. Also requests they be respectable. And judge whether he does what he says when he runs next year. “We need to hold him accountable.”
Speaker: “The world is watching Palm Beach County.”
“What we do, echoes in forever.”
Song breaks out. A team of four drummers start to play. Think synchronized drum circle. Corey Jones was a drummer.
Those on Periscope can watch State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s speech from the Rally for Accountability outside his office on Lulu Ramadan’s Periscope account.
State Attorney Dave Aronberg will speak at today’s rally, organizer Rae Whitley says.
This will be the first time State Attorney Dave Aronberg will speak publicly about #CoreyJones shooting.
Update from Lulu Ramadan:
Retired Judge Edward Rogers to State Attorney Dave Aronberg: “We don’t trust you Mr.Aronberg.”
State Attorney Dave Aronberg near speakers at the Rally for Transparency for Corey Jones. Aronberg issued press release, below…
Matt Benzion, Boynton Beach attorney, speaks at #CoreyJones rally about holding officers accountable. “These were not dangerous people.”
From Palm Beach Post reporter Lulu Ramadan live on the scene at @luluramadan.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, spokesman Mike Edmondson and all of Aronberg’s chief assistants just came outside.
About 250 people are at the rally.
Press release issued:
State Attorney Dave Aronberg emails out a press release on the Corey Jones case as the rally is proceeding. Here it is in its entirety:
Update from State Attorney Aronberg on Investigation into the Death of Corey Jones
The tragic death of Corey Jones is currently being investigated by three independent agencies: The State Attorney’s Office, the Palm Beach County’s Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The State Attorney’s Office has been in continued communication and cooperation with the other investigating agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Approximately an hour after the shooting, the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department requested independent investigations and by design, this process intentionally removes the Palm Beach Gardens PD from receiving updates and information on the investigations.
Investigations such as these are confidential and it is vitally important to obtain all of the evidence during this initial phase. These investigations can take months, depending on where the evidence leads.
Our office is committed to transparency and we have shared important information about this investigation with the family of Corey Jones and their attorneys. We would like to provide the community with as much information as possible, but prosecutors are forbidden by state and national ethics rules to speak freely about ongoing investigations, such as this one. We are only allowed to provide some basic uncontroverted facts, or else it may jeopardize the investigation and any potential future prosecution.
We take this investigation very seriously and as such, we cannot afford to rush, cut corners or appear to be partial. Our responsibility is to seek justice, our loyalty is to the community, and our commitment is to the truth.
Here are some of the facts that we are ethically allowed to release:
Officer Raja was on duty in an unmarked van.
Officer Raja was not in uniform.
Six shots were fired from the officer’s gun and 6 casings were recovered.
Corey Jones was shot three times.
Corey Jones’s firearm (.380 caliber) was found on scene. It was not fired.
We have spoken to Corey Jones’s family about these facts and have had ongoing discussions with community leaders to assure them of the independence, fairness and thoroughness of our investigation.
END PRESS RELEASE
UPDATE from rally:
Rally talk: So far, @aronberg, Palm Beach Gardens, @PBCountySheriff have all been citing “ongoing investigation.” But they can release a lot more. The big push is for records related to shooting. Speaker is reciting FL public records law.
Raul Alvarez, whose son, Aldo, was shot by a PBSO deputy in 2013. “I had to be here,” he said. From PB Post reporter Lawrence Mower’s Twitter feed.
Speaker Rae Whitley: “A broken down car is not punishable by death.”
Reporter Daphne Duret posts at her Twitter feed that noted local defense attorney Richard Lubin is representing Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, who shot Jones on Oct. 18.
UPDATE: 12:44 p.m.
Rallygoers start with a prayer. Correction: Numbers are topping 100. Group holds hands and invokes Jesus.
Channel 5 reporting that State Attorney Dave Aronberg will adress the crowd.
Downtown West Palm Beach streets have been closed off to accommodate the Rally for Transparency, called to put continued pressure on law enforcement officials to release information about what happened the night Corey Jones was shot and killed by a police officer in Palm Beach Gardens.
The rally is outside the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. The streets that are closed are portions of North Dixie Highway and Third Street.
Palm Beach Post reporter Lulu Ramadan is tweeting live from the rally at @luluramadan.
Apparently, Florida has all along needed a law- or Rick Scott’s blessing – to figure out just how much CS gas (aka pepper spray) state prisons have, where they put it and how they can get rid of it.
Finding a better way to trash empty gas canisters is not what the architects of a sweeping Senate prison reform bill had in mind this past session.
That bill was gutted by the House, though, just before it closed down for business three days ahead of schedule.
All along, lawmakers behind the Senate bill said the House’s suggested reforms weren’t reforms at all, but were window dressing: Changes that no one needed a law to implement.
Like figuring out how to inventory pepper spray.
This afternoon, Gov. Scott signed Executive Order 15-102, which the governor’s office said makes “significant reforms in Florida’s prison system to improve safety, transparency and accountability.” Among the reforms:
Establishment of a usage and inventory policy to track, by institution, the use of chemical agents and disposal of expired, used, or damaged canisters of chemical agents.
The order also includes some significant items, such as unannounced inspections and statistical analysis examining use of force by guards.
Not included, though, was the central Senate reform, an independent oversight commission. Nor were other reforms the Senate considered necessary in the wake of a series of stories by The Post, the Miami Herald and others exposing prison inmate deaths, abuse and unchecked brutality.
Just months ago, FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice concluded the state prison agency was so flawed that it recommended basically rebuilding it from the ground up.
One of the cases cited by the group: The 2010 death of Randall Jordan-Aparo.
The news yesterday that a South Carolina deputy will face murder charges for shooting and killing an unarmed, fleeing man made some people wonder: What if it hadn’t been caught on tape?
The vast majority of shootings aren’t recorded, obviously. But since 2006, multiple officers have faced charges after their shootings were recorded by witnesses or dashboard cameras. Some of those cases are below. Other shootings caught on tape illustrate how quickly a situation can go from mundane to deadly, even if the officer doesn’t intend to shoot.
WARNING: These videos are graphic.
Airman shot by California deputy (2006)
Elio Carrion was an Air Force airman home from Iraq and riding in the passenger’s seat of a friend’s car that led police on a high-speed chase in 2009. The driver was pulled over by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy Ivory Webb, who had Carrion on the ground at gunpoint. The video showed Webb first telling Carrion to stay on the ground, then telling Carrion to get up. Carrion replied, “I’m going to get up,” but when he started to get up, Webb shot him three times.
Webb was charged with attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm, but a jury acquitted him. The county settled a lawsuit by Carrion for $1.5 million.
BART police shooting of Oscar Grant (2009)
Officers with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department were dispatched to a call of a fight on one of the BART trains. While detaining and handcuffing Oscar Grant, officer Johannes Mehserle stood up, allegedly to shock him with a Taser. But he pulled out his handgun instead and fired once, killing Grant.
A jury found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Ohio officer shoots unarmed motorcyclist (2009)
Michael McCloskey, Jr., was unarmed when Ottawa Hills, Ohio officer Thomas White pulled him over. While McCloskey was sitting calmly on his motorcycle (at the 3:30 mark in the video), White shot him in the back, leaving him paralyzed. White said he thought McCloskey was going for a gun.
The officer was convicted of felonious assault with a gun, but the conviction was overturned last year because of improper jury instructions.
South Carolina deputy shoots man reaching for his license (2014)
This was one of two high-profile shootings in South Carolina captured on video last year. Trooper Sean Groubert stopped Levar Jones in a gas station lot because the man wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Groubert asked Jones for his ID, and Jones patted himself and reached into his car to get it. But Groubert thought Jones was reaching for a gun and shot him.
Groubert was arrested and charged with assault and battery. He’s awaiting trial.
Officers shoot BB-gun wielding teen based on bad 911 call (2014)
John Crawford III, 22, was shopping at an Ohio Walmart and carrying a toy he’d taken off the store shelf: a BB gun that looked like a rifle. A shopper called 911 on him, saying Crawford was waving a gun around and pointing it at people. Store surveillance captured Crawford on the phone, BB gun at his side, when police arrived. Beavercreek police officers, based on the faulty information in the 911 call, shot him almost immediately.
The caller later backtracked from his statements to 911 dispatchers, saying Crawford wasn’t a threat.
Body camera captures Dallas police shooting mentally ill man wielding a screwdriver (2014)
Last year’s fatal shooting of a mentally ill man by a Dallas police officer was one of the first high-profile shootings to be captured on an officer’s body camera. Jason Harrison’s mom had called police for help hospitalizing her mentally ill son, Jason Harrison, 38. When two officers arrived, Harrison was holding a screwdriver and apparently lunged at the officers, prompting both officers to shoot and kill him.
Deputy sobs after shooting 70-year-old man (2014)
This shooting in York County, S.C., shows how officers can easily – and understandably – perceive a harmless object to be a weapon, and how officers have trouble dealing with those decisions.
Deputy Terrance Knox pulled over 70-year-old Vietnam veteran Bobby Canipe for expired tags. Canipe, who apparently couldn’t hear the deputy yelling for his attention, reached into the truck and pulled out a long object, which Knox believed to be a rifle or shotgun. Knox yelled and fired multiple times, hitting Canipe in the hip. When he ran up to the wounded man, Knox realized the he had pulled out a cane, not a gun.
Later, at the 4:30 mark in the video, you can hear Knox sobbing and a fellow deputy consoling him.
A freshly minted state memo on investigating “unnatural” state prison inmate deaths may not do certain dead and dying prisoners a lot of good.
The memo between the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) enables FDLE, not DOC, to investigate unnatural inmate deaths -think homicide, suicide- from here on out.
But that doesn’t appear to include deaths by accidents, and accidents are sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
Take Marvin Morris. It’s not clear whether he had mental problems, but it certainly looked that way in April 2013, when Morris crashed his head into a metal door at least once and ran wildly about an enclosed area, eventually falling to the concrete floor.
According to statements given to state investigators, guards waited until Morris was on the floor, unresponsive and dying, before entering the area.
Much was made of the fact that Morris was smuggling a peanut butter sandwich out of the chow hall at the time. And Morris’s elderly mother said she was told by DOC that her son had choked to death on the peanut butter.
His death is categorized as an accident.
There is much about this accident that FDLE would not have looked at under the new agreement with DOC: Would Morris have lived if guards intervened earlier to subdue him? If nurses had?
In fact, DOC investigators recommended criminal charges be brought against two health care workers in connection with Morris’s death.
That didn’t happen.
But Morris’s death, officially an accident, illustrates how possible criminal behavior could escape notice by FDLE, if its investigative scope is limited to homicides and suicides.
Of course, the vast majority of inmates dying in Florida prisons are dying from natural causes, not homicides, suicides or even accidents.
Then again, deaths from natural causes can be every bit as troubling, as some have been accompanied by gross misdiagnosis and maltreatment, including giving three dying inmates Tylenol and ibuprofen for their end-stage cancers.
Timing, as they say, is everything.
Smack in the middle of intense media scrutiny over inmate abuse and deaths, newly installed Department of Corrections chief Julie Jones has clamped down on agency investigators who discuss – yes!- inmate abuse and deaths.
Existing policies on how to access public records won’t change, but investigators with the agency’s Inspector General who investigate abuse, and until recently, deaths, are now required to sign off on agreements barring them from discussing open or closed investigations, even with other law enforcement officials.
Jones may have thought this was a smallish issue. After all, the same rules applied when she headed up the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
But that department wasn’t fending off accusations of cover-ups, violence, and behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the governor’s office intended to clamp down on bad press. And it didn’t have four whistleblowing Inspector General investigators already in court alleging retaliation by higher-ups.
A DOC spokesman says the move is designed to halt casual talk about formal investigations – think World War II and “Loose Lips sink ships”. But the ban also applies to closed investigations when presumably, loose lips would have no impact on a case. And it requires that no investigator “volunteer” information about a case. If not asked, they can’t tell.
And there is a lot to talk about, including why medical companies withheld information on inmate deaths: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/private-health-firms-withheld-details-of-some-inma/nj6dr/#5db6b621.3545241.735638