What to Know
Eight NYPD officers were taken to a hospital Friday morning after entering an alleged drug lab in Queens
Law enforcement sources said they believe heroin and fentanyl were being mixed there
The entire midnight shift of the NYPD's 112th Precinct ended up needing medical care; all are expected to be OK
Eight NYPD officers were taken to the hospital early Friday after entering an alleged drug lab in Queens and inhaling fumes believed to have been from a highly toxic synthetic opioid, law enforcement sources said.
The officers complained of lightheadedness, nausea and tingling in their fingers after responding to a pre-dawn call at the six-story building on Saunders Street in Rego Park.
Police sources believe they were sickened by fumes from the drug fentanyl; a large amount of white powder was seen inside the apartment before the officers felt ill. The powder later tested positive for heroin, according to NYPD Queens North Assistant Chief Juanita Holmes, who said cash was also found piled on a mattress.
Officers initially had been called about a man who appeared to be high on heroin; that man was given Narcan to prevent an overdose and arrested.
The man, identified Saturday as 37-year-old Onix Torrellas, had just moved to the apartment a couple of days ago; he is known to police and has been arrested before, the sources said.
The fifth-floor apartment may have been a drug mill, a place where street drugs are mixed. In this case, it's believed the heroin was being mixed with fentanyl. This is a growing and deadly trend.
In June, a 13-year-old boy was found dead at his mother's home in New Jersey; both drugs were found in his system and toxicology tests showed he died of an overdose. Across the country, officers have been sickened after they unknowingly came into contact with fentanyl.
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It can cause an overdose with the equivalent of just two grains of salt. Further tests will determine if fentanyl was mixed into the heroin, Holmes said.
The entire midnight shift of the NYPD's 112th Precinct ended up needing medical care. They are all expected to be okay, the sources said.
Crime scene investigators donning hazmat suits were still at the building on Friday afternoon. Neighbors were startled by the massive response by first responders.
"There were dozens of trucks and firemen and policemen parked up and down this street," one resident named Diane said.