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Smuggled Fentanyl Blamed For Five Jail Overdoses In Four Hours

BEND, OR -- A Deschutes County Jail inmate is accused of smuggling fentanyl into the facility, leading to at least five overdoses late Saturday night and early Sunday. Jail Commander Captain Michael Shults says every inmate is scanned and searched during booking, "But even with our best efforts, contraband does get into correctional facilities. And, we monitor that. That’s why we continue doing searches once they’re in housing. So, it’s a constant battle, trying to keep contraband, drugs and all sorts of things out of correctional facilities and prisons."

Capt. Shults tells KBND News 25-year-old Sean McDonald was searched, but is believed to have smuggled fentanyl-laced pills inside on December 31, "We use [the word] ‘secrete.’ He was able to pull it from a body cavity. And then once he got it there, allegedly he was able to hand it to some of his cellmates. That’s when we noticed that he was struggling with an overdose, and then we saw a number of others very immediately afterwards." The first two overdose emergencies were noted at about 10:45 p.m. Saturday. The next two followed a few minutes later; and the fifth occurred at about 2 a.m. Sunday. 

Deputies treated three of the inmates with Narcan and several received CPR. Capt. Shults says jail staff have prepared for such a response over the past year. "Fentanyl is within our schools, it’s in our community, it’s in junior highs, it’s in every aspect of our lives now," he says, "And we knew that there are individuals constantly trying to get it into the correctional facility. So our deputies have been trained up, and their training really paid off for them that night." All five inmates are recovering, including McDonald. But, Shults says the entire incident was traumatic for his staff, "When somebody makes the decision to harm themselves knowingly, then trying to bring them back to life - not just one individual, but when they’re struggling with four others. We’re lucky to have the firefighters, paramedics and our own law enforcement showing up to be able to bring calmness to the chaos that was occurring in that short period of time." 

Shults says an Administrative Review of the incident is complete and subsequent searches of the jail turned up an additional 50 fentanyl-laced tablets. The criminal review is ongoing, and McDonald is charged with a number of new drug-related crimes. 

Between December 31 and January third, DCSO jail staff responded to six suspected opioid overdoses, compared to four in all of 2021.



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