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Civil Support Team assists Law Enforcement with fentanyl cases

The Washington National Guard’s 10th Civil Support Team (CST) recently supported the Washington State Patrol (WSP) during a search of the Thurston County Jail on March 17, 2023 following a string of fentanyl overdoses.

“It may seem odd to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction like a chemical or biological warfare agent, but as a threat to our first responders and in the interest of public health and safety we handle it as a threat in exactly the same way,” said Lt. Col. Tyler Royster, commander of the 10th CST.

From March 5 to 14, 2023, Thurston County corrections employees identified six cases of fentanyl overdoses in the jail. In each instance the corrections officers and medical staff took immediate action to provide aid and rapidly reverse the overdose. However, identifying the source was much harder and more time consuming for the staff.

Widely regarded as the experts by their law enforcement partners, the 10th CST’s survey team members, working jointly with WSP, identified areas in the jail and used RAMAN spectroscopy and fentanyl test strips on items suspected of containing hazards.

“While none of the items tested on-site were confirmed positive for illicit narcotics, our team assisted State Patrol to eliminate on-site hazards and allow SWAT to properly collect evidence,” said Royster. “Tumwater Fire Department provided on-site medical back-up with a basic life support team throughout the operation and the Department of Ecology provided proper hazard disposal.”

This was the second fentanyl-related mission in as many months for the CST. In February the team was requested by WSP to assist with decontamination efforts after a warrant served by the Snohomish County Sheriff identified what appeared to be a meth lab in an apartment complex. After determining the hazards at the location were neither a meth lab or fentanyl-containing products, WSP gathered evidence and transferred waste to the Department of Ecology for disposal.

“When called in on a potentially dangerous substance, sometimes the best thing we can do for our first responders is to provide them overwatch and peace of mind. For them and for the public, it’s rewarding to be able to provide that service,” said Royster.