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1 dead, 2 others hospitalized after authorities find white powder in Santa Ana apartment

Santa Ana Police and members of the hazardous materials team responded to a report of a white powdery substance that was found inside an apartment in Santa Ana.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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A man’s death and the presence of a white powdery substance found inside a Santa Ana apartment Wednesday triggered a large emergency response when authorities feared the chemical could be lethal.

When police responded to a medical emergency in an apartment in the 800 block of Fairview Street, they found a 30-year-old man dead with a bloodied nose, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. Two other men, 18 and 25, were also found incapacitated but alive.

As officers looked around, they spotted the powdery substance and drug paraphernalia nearby, he said. The officers immediately notified members of the Orange County Fire Authority’s hazardous materials team to inspect the substance, and the two men were hospitalized.

Officers were worried that the powder may have been fentanyl, a powerful painkiller that drug dealers use to cut heroin and cocaine.

Anthony Bertagna, Santa Ana public affairs officer, describes the scene at apartment where one person died and two others were hospitalized. (Video by Allen J. Schaben)

Fire Capt. Larry Kurtz said authorities won’t know what the substance is until they run it through a battery of tests.

A woman and three children were also found in the 800-square-foot apartment and removed, Bertagna said. They, along with the officers and paramedics, all underwent decontamination, essentially an intense shower.

Bertagna said a recent spike of fentanyl-related death nationwide have forced officers to use new safety measures when they respond to calls where they suspect the drug is present.


Officers have been trained to “back off” when they come across white powder and an unconscious victim at the scene of a call, he said.

That’s when they “let the pros deal with it,” Bertagna said.

A small dose of the odorless white power can be fatal.

In some cases, just touching the powder could trigger an overdose like it did this year in Ohio. There, an East Liverpool police officer accidentally overdosed on fentanyl when he brushed off a powdery substance from his shirt. Authorities said the powder got onto his shirt when he was searching a car during a traffic stop.

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA


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